Over the summer, I (Dr. Donnelly) was told by my brother and his fiancee that I HAD TO SEE MOANA - and yes, the enthusiasm regarding that order matched an all-caps situation. I wasn't exactly a hard sell as I love Disney films and particularly love ones that focus on girls. The fact that I hadn't seen it was more to do with a crazy schedule and less to do with lack of desire. So, one weekend when we were all at our family's shore house, we fired up the ol' Netflix and settled in for a few hours.
Spoiler: I fecking loved it.
If you haven't seen it, the movie tells the story of Moana, who is the future leader of her island. For reasons, she ventures across the ocean fight a vengeful fire goddess who is making life miserable for everyone. (This is the roughest of rough summaries and doesn't cover the delight that is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a demigod.)
What I'd like you to think about today is a truly massive spoiler, so if you're averse, click away now....
Okay, here we are. Moana is the first one in several generations to figure out that the fire goddess is not her true self. Instead, she is the goddess of life, but someone stole her heart to take her power and reduced her to this angry vengeful thing. Moana looks her right in the eyes and sings "I know who you are, I know your name. They have stolen the heart from inside you and this is not who you are." The goddess calms, stops dead in her vengeful tracks and levels with Moana, who then touches her face gently.
Of course, all ends happily and the goddess gets her heart back and Moana learns who she is because Disney, but that's not what I've been meditating on for months. I can't get this 2 minute clip out of my brain.
I know your name.
I know who you are and this isn't it.
This version of you, this shadow of your deepest self, I know it's because your sense of identity has been stolen, but I'm going to speak life to you - I know your name.
The power of truly being known is incalculable. To be in the presence of someone who knows your name, who know your true self, who knows you is something truly special. It's revelatory and empowering and something not nearly enough people get to experience.
As a leader, this cuts both ways. First, you must have folks in your life who know your name. They're mandatory to make sure you stay grounded and healthy as you lead. Second, you should strive to be the one who speaks life into your team. You must make sure you're not stealing the hearts from inside them, but is instead calling them to their fullest self.
You may be wondering how to do that an maintain professional boundaries and that is a fair question. In some situations, you may not be the best one to speak life but you can certainly make sure your company culture doesn't steal it. You can absolutely nurture an environment where people are valued and respected and known. And, to be honest, you absolutely must.