The right question can unlock a world of possibility and insight. I recently sought counsel from an amazing consultant named Mark Levy to help me think deeply about some issues. One of his many strengths is asking great questions. This post is a response to one of his queries... What is it you don’t like about leadership?
My first conclusion: I love leadership! To envision a preferred future and rally people to make it a reality while helping them grow along the way, there’s nothing like it! However, Mark’s question did cause some soul-searching. I don’t like it when…
My leadership is compromised by my own selfishness. The way Ken Blanchard and I articulated this issue in The Secret was in the form of a question: Are you a serving leader or a self-serving one? The truth is, as hard as I try, there are self-serving moments along my leadership journey. My on-going challenge is to own them and work to reduce the frequency with which they occur. This is the foundation of effective servant leadership. We must cultivate the ability to think others first. If we cannot accomplish this with some predictability, we will ultimately forfeit the opportunity to lead.
[tweet_box design="default"]Are you a serving leader or a self-serving one?[/tweet_box]
I make bad decisions – If you’ve been leading for more than a month, you know decision-making is core to your success as a leader. Unfortunately, many of the decisions I make are the wrong decisions. A mentor of mine challenged me decades ago not to become paralyzed in decision-making. He encouraged me to keep moving. He said, “Fifty percent of your decisions will be wrong, no matter how long you debate them. What do you think you do with half your time as a leader? You work to make the bad decisions right.” I don’t know if I’m wrong 50% of the time or not, but I still hate it every time it happens.
My best efforts prove insufficient – Have you ever given your best and fallen short? If you’ve played competitive sports, you undoubtedly know the feeling. When you leave it all on the field or the court and time runs out, you feel lousy. This is another inevitable part of leadership – you will not win all the battles you join. My advice: Don’t let this dissuade you from jumping in! Without the battle, there is no chance of victory. I still hate it when I fall short – you will, too.
I miss opportunities to help others grow – One of the great joys of leadership is seeing others grow. My preference has always been to turn on a light vs. turning up the heat. When we help others grow, we are engaged in multiplication. My regret, always in hindsight, is when I realize I missed an opportunity to help someone else grow. This regret is palpable when I realize a stretch assignment, a question or no action at all on my part would have been preferred to the path I chose.
I do the wrong things well – This it probably my greatest fear as a leader. Not only that I might do this, but I might allow those I lead to do the same. As I’ve written before, I am blessed to work with amazing people – talented, passionate, hardworking, conscientious women and men; excellence is never a question. Their work will be world-class. The challenge: Are we doing the right things? You get no credit for doing the wrong things well. When I fill my calendar with nice-to-do, rather than strategic activities, regardless of how well I execute, I am forfeiting my highest contribution. I hate it when I do that!
In summary, There’s nothing I don’t like about leadership except my own shortcomings when it comes to execution! Some call it the knowing – doing gap. I call it the ultimate leadership challenge.
The bigger question Mark’s probing raises for me is, “What am I willing to do about these things?”
Obviously, individual issues deserve targeted interventions. However, as I search for a universal principle to help me close my gaps, all I could come up with is to keep growing. I still believe with all my heart, our capacity to grow determines our capacity to lead.
I am going to keep growing – I hate it when I don’t![GLS_Shield]