Usually when we think about Dr. Seuss, what comes to mind are children’s books, bright colored characters with silly names, and lots of rhyming. And while these all are true, it turns out that when we look a little closer, there are incredible lessons to be learned about leadership.
Leadership never has been – and never will be – about a title or a role. Furthermore, in today’s disruptive world, we can’t afford to sit back and wait for someone else “more qualified” to fix problems or step up. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US has an opportunity to – and I’d go so far as to say a responsibility – to choose to show up as leaders in our lives. In every interaction we have a choice to find ways to maximize our positive impact, show up as our best fully authentic selves, and call others to greatness.
Which brings me back to the fabulous Dr. Seuss. As long as I can remember, I’ve absolutely loved his work with the creativity, colors, fun and powerful messages. And since I typically like to do things differently and add my own sparkle, it felt natural to infuse a bit of Seuss into my life.
- When my husband and I got married, we had a bit of a Seussical theme going. We had a Fox in Sox inspired passage on our wedding program. At our reception, the tables were named after his books and characters, the groomsmen had Cat in the Hat hats waiting for them on their chairs, and we had a funky Seussesque wedding cake. While it made it fun and unique, it also was a reminder to not take ourselves so seriously and to embrace the child within us all.
- That theme stayed with us when we had our son, Peyton. His nursery was completely decked out with Dr. Seuss colors, quotes and characters. We infused Dr. Seuss into his 1-year-old photo shoot. And now his bathroom has carried the theme more than a decade later. Because, let’s be honest, you’re never too old to appreciate Dr. Seuss!
Why am I sharing all of this? Because beyond the colors, characters and rhymes are some really powerful messages and lessons about what it means to be human and what is possible if we dare to be a conduit for positive change in our world. And I think Dr. Seuss’ popularity lasts because somehow he has a way of putting things that we need to hear and bring us back to a better version of ourselves. Besides, when life can seem challenging, sometimes we need some inspiration and reminders to help us navigate this journey of life.
3 Ways to Channel Your Inner Dr. Seuss
Leadership starts with self. We have to do the work to become a better, more self-aware, curious, and courageous version of ourselves if we’re going to thrive in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world. And we can channel our inner Dr. Seuss to guide us along the way.
1.Don’t Be Afraid to Envision a Bolder, Brighter Future. Why do so many of us reach a point in our lives where we stop dreaming and settle? As human beings, we are hardwired to seek out familiarity and comfort – even when our situations don’t serve us well or are unhealthy (or even toxic). The unknown of change many times can feel more unsettling than the known of our current state. But what if we invited ourselves and others into a space of possibility and actually dared to believe that we can demand more?
I was recently at a graduation party and found myself smiling when the guest book was the book, Oh the Places You’ll Go. How absolutely appropriate to inspire and invite new graduates to be excited to lead and influence a brighter, better future for our world! The thing is that any of us can lead and influence positive change around us. And, we also must recognize that creating a better future isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. I know; sorry to rain on the parade here.
What I love is that, in this book, Dr. Seuss doesn’t get sucked into toxic positivity and pretend that life is a fairytale. He reminds us that we will face challenges; but we can get through them. Even in the most challenging circumstances, we always have a choice in how we respond and react. Although it might be comfortable, the status quo won’t get us to where we ultimately want to go. So we can remember to,
“Take every chance, drop every fear.”
2.Be an Advocate and Ally for Others. So many people are hurting right now. And many other people don’t feel they can show up as their authentic selves and be accepted – or in some cases be safe. Not only is this sad, but it is actually going against our core human need to feel heard and seen and to matter. We all want to be valued and honored for who we are.
In Horton Hears a Who, Dr. Seuss reminds us that the little folks have just as much right to live as the bigger folks. We all have different lived experiences. What we can do is to lean in and be curious, listen to others and be willing to unlearn and relearn. Just because we haven’t experienced something doesn’t make it any less real or less important for someone else. We all have an opportunity to be an ally for others and to stand up when we see people being treated poorly. After all,
“A person’s a person, no matter how small!”
3.Let Your Sparkle Shine! So many of us waste incredible amounts of time and energy wearing masks to hide our inadequacies and pretend to be something we’re not. In today’s world where the cancel culture is strong, people feel the need to post a filtered (and unreal) depiction of themselves on social media, and trolls sit behind a keyboard ready to throw shade and judgment at people, it can feel scary to let ourselves be seen as we authentically are.
So we have to get clear on whose opinions actually matter. Too often, we end up wasting energy trying to win the likes and approval of people who don’t know us or have our backs while we steamroll over those who actually matter most to us. We end up hustling for our worth elsewhere and leaving the crappy leftover version of ourselves for our loved ones. Yikes!
The reality is that when we show up as our authentic self, own our magnificence, and let our sparkle shine, we give others permission to do the same. Think how boring the world would be if we were all the same, anyway! And as one of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes reminds us,
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
We all can show up as a leader in our lives; we can make a positive difference in our workplaces, teams, families and communities when each of us chooses to put deliberate practices into place get out of our own way, show up more authentically human, and stand up for and support one another. Although there is so much hurting and divisiveness in our world right now, I believe we can get back to a place of greater humanity. Perhaps all we need is to start channeling a bit of Dr. Seuss.
Stay brave. Stay human. Stay safe. And never dull your sparkle!