One of my greatest weaknesses as a CEO has been relational leadership. Truly, ask anyone who worked for me in the early days of The Institute for the Psychology of Eating. I was pretty much relationally illiterate, so much so I didn’t even know it was a thing to consider. Really.

I am a worker. My idea of leadership was figuring out what needed to be done and then doing it at all costs. I had little to no consideration for the journey; I was goal oriented and committed to execution of the necessary steps no matter what. I was a machine. A hysterical machine, because I am actually a highly (painfully) sensitive person with a ton of relational “needs” that was trying to be superhuman so I could once and for all prove I am worthy, I am not a fraud, and I matter in some way. I was consumed with insecurity that had me cut off and defensive.

I was a bad boss. And I really truly didn’t get it. I would spend hours in my room crying (more like sobbing) when I realized an employee didn’t like me or when someone quit. One time I logged into one of my employees’ Gmail to pull an email thread I needed, and the chat window was open, and they were thrashing me, talking about how much they couldn’t stand me, calling me names, and it was just horrifying. Earlier that day we had had sweet meetings, they were acting like they liked me; I had no idea they really didn’t, and I was devastated.

And to be clear, that is in no way me saying “poor me.” I had to start taking responsibility for the fact that the common denominator was me. This was happening over and over and over with me. And sure, I could blame other things, and yes, this was not the only factor, but my complete lack of relational awareness was seriously costing me.

So I started to take one of the more excruciating looks at the feedback the world around me was giving me and look at what was mine. It was not pleasant. I did not like what I saw. In fact I was kinda horrified to notice, oh wow, I do do that – oh sure, yes, I am not really saying anything mean – maybe cold – but one could argue I was just giving clear instructions – but the energy in me as I was writing the email was not clean, it was loaded almost always. With disappointment or frustration, or worst of all, disregard.

And this is not to absolve myself, but I literally had no idea. It was completely unconscious. Which doesn’t mean I am in the clear, because the truth is, I knew something was off in me for a bit before I was willing to look at it. I resented it. I just wanted to be left alone to do my work and try and be okay for a while. I was still recovering from the remnants of my eating disorder, I had moved across the country, leaving everything to start a life in Colorado. I was in way over my head with the work I was trying to do, learning while executing, and I was freaked. So yeah, I was not a good boss, and I could still be better. But I now see this thing (relationship) I didn’t even see before as key in a way I feel like I am still getting.

This is why I am excited to attend this conference that I am also speaking at. I will be talking about relational leadership in the digital space, using social media to lead through connection and intimacy. That is what I do best. Face to face I am still learning. For me and my intensely sensitive nervous system, this medium has done wonders, and I have real relationships with people I will never meet, some long term (lasting for years) and some that have become profoundly deep in just a matter of weeks. And through this, I have the most exquisite honor of having people reach out to me regularly and say, “You saved my life.” And even as I say that, I blush and feel a bit stunned. How could a poem about my personal experience impact someone such that they would say that to me? I am not entirely sure yet, but I think it is a question worth asking.

So I am going to do a question and answer where I will do my best to share what feels most true for me about what I have here with you. I am a student and practitioner; my insights tend to come from the inside. I look forward to talking about relational leadership and social media with you if you come out to Boulder for this 4 day event. Some of my dearest friends are running this conference and speaking in it. Oh, and it is at the Integral Center, a building I have had some truly formative moments in, that is closing forever soon! Bittersweet. So maybe you come play and learn with me October 26th – 29th in Boulder, Colorado. And I will do my best to be relational with you…

❤ Emily Joy Rosen

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Emily Rosen is the co-owner and CEO of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating where she oversees business development strategies, student affairs, marketing and public relations, and keeps a pulse on the fields of eating psychology and nutrition to ensure the Institute’s position as a leader worldwide. Emily makes things happen. Her passion for health and transformation has provided her the opportunity to speak and present internationally and be at the forefront of a new generation of women leaders committed to making a heartfelt difference in the world. Her tireless work and faithful commitment have touched the lives of millions of fans and followers worldwide.