It was 7:15 pm, halfway through the middle school's production of The Who's Tommy. The kids, ages 11-14, were performing in front of a sold out crowd of 150. My daughter had a slew of songs throughout the play, and her big solo was up next.
She got onstage, started singing, and I realized that her microphone was off. Oh. My. Gosh.
Let me pause here and say: My daughter is fourteen, and she has pretty significant anxiety. And despite being passionately in love with acting and singing, she often gets paralyzed by simple things like deciding what to have for lunch.
So there we were, sold-out crowd, she was alone on stage, her mic wasn't working.
And you know what happened? My daughter belted her heart out and sang every single note with a smile on her face. I have to say, she actually sang louder than I knew she even could, to the point where, midway through the song, I thought her mic was actually working again, even though it wasn't.
After the play, I gave her a big hug and told her how amazing she performed. I didn't dare mention the mic--I figured that maybe she didn't even know about it.
And she said to me, "Mom, isn't it funny that my mic wasn't working?" She was smiling and calm. She was actually laughing about it!
She said that when she was onstage, she realized the mic was off, and she looked at her teacher. He gave her a simple nod, and on she went.
The show must go on.
Leading In the Face of Adversity
It's now the next morning, and I'm reflecting on all of this. My daughter, in that moment, showed true courage, grit, and leadership in the face of adversity. She looked around at her classmates and teachers, decided that what her team needed from her was to hold it together and come up strong, and that's exactly what she did.
I'm certain that this moment will have a lasting positive impact on her. And on me.
Regardless of what role we play on our team, each of us has moments when we are faced with unexpected challenges. Often, these moments are acute, they come in an instant and we have to make quick decisions that have long term implications.
Sometimes these moments come when you least expect them. Just this week, I was in a meeting with my team and I found myself in the precarious position where I raised a concern about the direction the team had chosen for one of our strategic initiatives. I faced singificant push back from everyone at the table. In that moment, I needed to either disagree and commit, or veto the direction that everyone else felt passionately about. In that moment, my leadership decision would have lasting results, no matter which option I chose. And what's worse, I honestly didn't know which path to choose. My anxiety level rose instantly. I decided to disagree and commit, and go with the team's decision.
I know first hand how facing adversity can be paralyzing, terrifying. I'm certain my daughter's anxiety was screaming four alarm fire on stage.
Yet, in these moments, those of us who can reach deep down inside, and find the strength to act, to decide, to carry on, are the ones who will reach heights we never thought possible.
We found out later that during a costume change backstage, the microphone switch somehow got turned off. True leadership isn't something that is given. It's earned, one anxious moment at a time.