A leadership responsibility is to spur purpose. In my book, Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders, the idea of soul sparks is discussed. Soul sparks come in different forms. Simply put,
“Soul sparks are those small ignitions of inspiration that fan into big changes, new directions, or fresh works. They come from deep down inside. Make your body and mind shake with excitement. These are soul sparks.”
The leadership challenge of soul sparks is two-fold. First, for our own soul sparks, we need to have a healthy sense of self-awareness and then motivation to act in meaningful ways. Second, as leaders, we need to support, position, and otherwise guide team members to experience their soul spark. This is the dual responsibility and challenge of leaders, and we can learn a lot from Millennial leaders in how they are navigating soul sparks in their pursuits.
Soul sparks are not passion for passion sake. Soul sparks define a heart-based place in which our passion takes hold, enhances our ability to achieve them, and then lets our purpose bloom in full color and impact.
Soul sparks enables us to make the most out of our life and work. Dan Oestreich underscores this point:
“Without such moments when our soul comes forward, not just in our work, but in our lives, too, we lose personal meaning. We become, more or less, objects. But this concept also raises questions, ‘What is my soul?’ after all and, indeed, ‘When have I felt it come forward?’”
Over the past few weeks, I have asked several writers to highlight their own soul spark experiences. The stories have been amazing. In everyday life, people are stepping into their soul sparks. More than this, they either identify a person who helped flame their own soul spark or highlight how they helped someone find their own.
Each of us has a soul spark story, and we need to share it. The challenge, however, is also in how we can create that soul spark story within another person.
Let’s dive into the some snippets of different soul spark stories.
Dan Oestreich – Uncapping Soul Sparks
Dan Oestreich, Unfolding Leadership, writes two soul spark stories. The first highlights how he worked with someone to realize their soul spark and the second on his own. Here are two key insights:
“This very behavior may be an indicator of the soulfulness hidden within him, part of an unexpressed wholeness. Just so, the moment I question that compartmentalization, I see a little piece of a soul spark appear. He doesn’t exactly know why he’s been so compartmentalized, and there’s almost a smile on his face as he gives himself permission to think about being a more complete person at work, rather than a part of one.” On Soul Sparks
Soul sparks need to be unbound from their compartments hidden within.
On his personal soul spark:
“But for me, it was like lighting the fuse to an explosion that hasn’t stopped going off over forty some years later. Somehow what Laing wrote banged me on the head, took me out of the drift, shook me by the shoulders and offered this sage advice: ‘It’s not too late to pursue what you want, what you really love.’” On Soul Sparks: A Postscript
Alli Polin – The Transparency and Encouragement of Soul Sparks
Alli Polin, Break the Frame, shows how her manager encouraged her to pursue her spark and highlights her lessons learned in the experience.
“My manager flamed the soul spark within me. She listened, trusted, and understood that this audition was connected to my heart and soul. The best leaders never stomp on someone’s heart and expect them to breathe life into the work; it’s an impossibility.”
The leader’s challenge – flame the spark within others.
“Vulnerability and courage enable you to not only take risks, but remain deeply connected and accountable to your choices.”
“Soul sparks are like a wave that carry you forward, in flow. However, like a surfer, you will find many waves to ride and celebrate over your lifetime, not only one.” Soul Sparks Change Everything – What’s Yours?
Key lessons indeed.
Danny Rubin – Discovering Soul Sparks
Danny Rubin, News To Live By, shows how we can let certain experiences and achievements become just merely a bullet point on a resume. When untapped, we find a new path forward in our careers.
“There. Right there. Shannon had an “a ha” moment and recognized how she undersold a critical task at her job — her temp job, the job she wanted to leave to find something more permanent.
That day, I believe Shannon experienced a “soul spark.” She understood how to highlight the best moments of her career and use them to stand out.
In fact, with a refreshed resume/cover letter, Shannon DID land a new job. She’s now the assistant director of placement at a company that provides legal outsourcing services. Yes! Congrats!” The Best Moment in a Career Coaching Session
A spark converted.
Kern Carter – Gaining an Unexpected Guide
Kern Carter, Thoughts of a Fractured Soul, took the desire to hear an author speak and found much more. What Kern found was a willing guide and encourager.
“Before that day I had never even heard of Kristen Laine; didn’t know she existed nor did she know I existed and yet here she was offering to help…me? It didn’t make any sense but it felt right.”
“‘Keep writing,’ were her final words near the end of the chapter. ‘There’s an author waiting to tell powerful and emotional stories. Keep writing and you will find that voice.'” Why You Should Never Pass Up an Opportunity
Go to those events where you feel the urge, overcome the distractions. You never know what may happen.
Mark Fernandes – Finding Magic in Conversations
Mark Fernandes, Values Based Leadership, spent time listening and engaging with a group of Millennials at work and discovered inspiration plus a greater understanding of what the next generation of leaders represent for us now and in the future.
“Millennials are often chided for believing in their own extraordinary potential, and thinking they can (and will) change the world for the better. I say, ‘let them believe.’ And while we are at it, let’s show them we believe by committing our time and energy to them, ensuring they do become all they are capable of becoming and change the world as we know it, as planned.” Millennial Magic: Let Them Believe
Yes, let them believe. And let their belief unbound ours again too. There is magic in Soul Sparks.
Joy Guthrie – Navigating Our Sparks
Joy Guthrie, Vizwerx Group, illustrates the challenge and opportunity of Soul Sparks well.
Soul Sparks can be confusing. When we pursue, the right ones become more real. We cannot just look at them. We need to explore.
Soul Sparks – The Leadership Challenge and Opportunity
Just as these stories are across generations so are Soul Sparks, as they should be. Soul Sparks empower a generation to reach up and lead in a more engaged, meaningful way.
More stories of Soul Sparks are coming, and we will continue to highlight them. If you have a Soul Spark story, write it and then share it with us. In turn, I will share your story through our social channels and combine yours with others here on Thin Difference.
Soul Sparks are not always easy to accept. Soul Sparks are not always easy to let others pursue. As leaders, we need to tap into our self-awareness and unbridle our purpose and engagement. As leaders, we need to encourage and provide opportunities for others to experience their own. After all, through it all, we will be more engaged in our life and work. More than just being more productive, we will be more purpose-energized.
What is your Soul Spark story? How have you helped someone discover their own?
Join the Conversation
The Leadership Challenge: Soul Sparks
Soul sparks are something that I think people think they should feel like a lightning bolt. Sometimes they’re a little subtler. Thank you for the inspiration to reflect with purpose and come forward with some new meaningful aha’s. Congratulations on the publication of Activate Leadership too. A fantastic read for millennials and leaders across generations.
Thank you, Alli! Appreciate your support. Your soul spark story raised many good points about pursuit and support of them. Grateful for your insights! Jon
I really like the way you’ve put this all together, Jon. Soul sparks are a wonderful topic for the conversation about how we grow as people and as leaders. Thank you so much for enriching us with this delightful way of seeing.
Thank you, Dan, and especially for highlighting your soul spark experiences and stories. They added much to the conversation. Thank you! Jon
Great roundup, Jon! I like the way Alli describes “soul sparks.” She wrote:
“Soul sparks are like a wave that carry you forward, in flow.”
Once you ride that wave, there’s no going back — for good reason!
Agreed, Danny. Always good to catch that wave! Thanks for your contribution and perspective on Soul Sparks. Jon