Got what I got, the hard way,
And I’ll make you better, each and every day,
So buddy, don’t you fret,
Cause you ain’t seen, nothin’ yet.
Cause I’m a soul man, I’m a soul man.
Yea I’m a soul man. I’m a soul man.
A blast from the past, this song! Originally written by by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, it was made real during my university days by The Blues Brothers … the musical incarnation of John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd (a.k.a Jake and Elwood).
There were a few things that drew me to this song as the spirit of this post. First, the title Soul Man is very meaningful to me, and secondly, its connection to my university days where I think many of us emerge as adults. But the biggest draw for me lately has been a realization of the growing number of male friends who indeed show up in my life as a real life Soul Man, and I’m grateful for them in many ways.
In my past, males (including moi) related as warrior’s for the same cause. They compared suits of armor, reveled in the weakness of others and otherwise found ways to promote their own invincibility. I’ve had conversations with guys where they have said that their friends only express their true feelings when they are bolstered by one too many drinks.
Over the past several years I have come to know a different breed. Enter the Soul Man. It is funny what happens when I put my real self out there. Real people show up in return. Conflict turns into friendship. Chasms turn into bridges. Misunderstanding turns into new possibilities. Men decide that feelings are now suddenly normal and express them openly to each other. Equally as clear, however, is how fast these new relationships can disappear as the Soul Man goes back into hiding.
Where has this shift come from? Has there been a cosmic shift in the way males relate?Maybe. But I don’t really think that is the answer. The answer more likely lies within me. At a certain point I just implicitly decided that life would be better without the false front, the bluster and bravado, and truth and imperfection were better platforms for connection.
This can be a difficult thing to do as a leader. Vulnerability isn’t something that comes naturally to a leadership discussion. We often feel like we have to be invincible, strong, a provider of answers and wisdom. But when we approach an event with vulnerability, what we usually find is that both we as a leader and the people we are relating to (male or female) are much more engaged, open and trusting, and therefore much more capable of moving forward, creating value, sharing the reward and overall gaining positive energy from the experience.
This can sound easy, but the trick is staying in this sort of space when we from we are threatened. Our “fight or flight ” instincts kick in and from there we have to battle neuroscience to win. If we don’t win the battle, we end up in that less effective place of prescriptive, instruction-based leadership. But we can prevail. It is a bit of an art form to learn to interrupt our reaction to threats and replace them with concerned responses, but when we do the rewards are immense.
So to all the Soul Men in my life that have helped me develop this awareness, thank you! You know who you are. My guess is that the women in our lives appreciate it too! Let’s understand that this is an emergent trend, and it requires commitment to keep moving forward. Let’s continue to hold each other accountable to this higher standard.
To all the women who read this, thanks for indulging this male dominated post. And for all, here are the Blues Brothers with Soul Man.