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  • Writer's pictureCynthia Sharper Snodgrass

Who Might You Be?

“When I let go of who I am, I become who I might be” - Lao Tzu

I thank God for Lao Tzu, the author of “The Way,” more commonly known as the Tao Te Ching. He became the moderator of the many conflicting thoughts and feelings over the last several years of my life. I believe my first brush with this Master Teacher was in 2008 during a hasty search for a leadership quote to add to my email’s signature line. Then again when I purchased and actually studied his teachings in entirety - as I contemplated resignation from both a leadership position and my marriage.

Details aside, I was considering two major life changes -- huge free-falls with no real safety net, no back up plan. My grit and wit were all I thought I would need to throw my shoulders back and middle-fingers up. I was pissed.  I was over it. It was the perfect lighter-fluid for bridges I had no intention of crossing again. 

Oh man, that was soooo not The Way. But it was My Way.

It was the road I chose … the scythe that pruned … well, okay … hacked my professional and personal life to the ground and to the bare roots of my soul. Several months of contemplation led me to willingly discard the social and financial luxuries that come with job titles, and wedlock, to become who I might be. And who might that be? 

A leader who takes huge risks – who serves and exposes her underbelly over and over again, because she has to. She was born to. And in doing so, I have helped free many from the sabotaging and endless chatter of their ego-selves. These shifts have taken place everywhere from the board room to the living room floor, if that’s where the conversation has to occur. I can help dispel the fragile, but persuasive illusions that propel professionals to lean toward veneer, falsities and bravado in the name of ambition, promotion and success.

I have talked students out of suicide ideations and back into the classroom, because that’s what I came to this planet to do. But I've also come to help professionals re-establish their professional power with instinct and precision.

My Way fuses spiritual and professional growth into one tree with many branches at a rapid pace, dissolving the illusions of political space. Because I can. And I will continue to do so. My Way is to lead through service in a way that leaves a team thinking it was all their doing, anyway. Lao Tzu taught me that, too.

But the purest expression of My Way is through the embracement of my every scar, every vulnerability. Real leaders have both. Real servants have both. What I mean is, every time I open my mouth to advise someone it affords yet another opportunity to expose my short-circuits and short-comings. Partial facial-neuropathy and social anxietyhave a way of pruning a perfectionistic ego, especially when many workplace environments have smoke and mirror leadership constructs. I don’t pretend to have it all, because through profound gratitude and pruning, I realize that my divine calibration “to serve” is more powerful than any real or perceived flaw. So with that, my light cannot help but burn bright with creative insight, love and power with every professional interaction. That’s my goal, at least … to weigh my impact by the knee-to-knee, eye-to-eye heartfelt “thank yous” received when hire contracts are signed, generational poverty is interrupted, corner-offices are obtained, confidence is regained, reasonable accommodations are negotiated, salaries are exponentially increased, and graduation tassels move from one side of the mortar board to the other. Success has no timeline. And therefore, as I reflect on the words of Lao Tzu and release the parts of the past that no longer serve me, I acknowledge what I have become: a career catalyst, a light-worker, and a straight-up Boss. Who might you be? 

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