I want to talk about Traveling Pants – but I don’t mean the same thing as the young adult series of books. Those were about an actual pair of jeans that miraculously fit four totally differently shaped friends (really, now that I think about it, perhaps these books were magic realism as much as YA fiction) and connected them to each other. I am talking about a metaphoric pair of pants or jeans that actually might fit one of your friends – but certainly don’t fit you.
Ultimately, some pants are better to travel without.
Those are the jeans (or suit or pattern or color) that you covet, that you wish you looked good in. The jeans that aren’t about five pounds – or even 50 – but are jeans that literally are NEVER going to look or feel good on you but that you envy because you’d like to be the kind of person who could wear them.
Many of us “travel” with these jeans: they fold into our baggage and add a sense of envy, discontentment, or a belief that something or someone else is superior.
I had a chance some time ago while attending leadership training to think about these jeans as a metaphor for leadership. I use that term to mean whatever leadership means for you: to speak in front of a giant room of people or how you show up in your closest relationships with family or colleagues. Stay with me here: what if those elusive, ill-fitting jeans can represent your identity as well – in other words, how you might believe you are SUPPOSED to show up? Or what you believe a leader is SUPPOSED to look and act like?
Perhaps you believe – as I did — that leadership needs to involve a suit and deep knowledge and CEO energy and Very Serious Stuff. Or maybe the leadership “jeans” hiding in your baggage is a wish or an envy – you’d like to be seen as sultrier, funnier, more earnest, more by the rules, more still, more animated, bigger, smaller, more in your body, more intellectual, more charming, more eccentric – more of something.
For me, my leadership “jeans” were channeling some humorless, intellectual guy wearing a suit. I envied that take charge, confident energy, and I believed that if I could only squeeze into it, I’d be better as a leader. People would listen.
And while I’m sure this guy is a great leader, alas, it’s just not who I am. It turns out when I embrace the jeans that fit – showing up in the warmth, humor, and eccentricities in me that resonate with others – A LOT is possible.
What if your power and leadership and relationships are most authentic if you embrace what fits? If you could stop trying to be small if your power is in your bigness? Or embrace that you are more alive when you allow yourself to be quirky or regal or earthy or salty or funny? Just a wish from me to you: give yourself permission to stop contorting and leave those stupid jeans on the closet floor.
Margaret Katz Cann is a Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC). She specializes in executive fundraising coaching, board training and consulting, Margaret works with nonprofit executives to stop tripping over their ask, to connect to passion and leadership – and step into the world of compelling fundraising. Margaret is an experienced and joyful fundraiser, having spent 22 years at the Community Foundation Boulder County. She is passionate about the intersection of coaching with fundraising, and the way leaders who are willing and wanting to up their game can step away from anxiety and dread can step into their leadership as fundraisers for their organizations. Her nonprofit clients include executive directors, board members, and development staff, where she works with organizations to plan and then adds coaching to make the plans become reality.