Techniques and strategies for improving leadership skills are not the total answer. What leaders need is self-awareness.
It is difficult to get an honest picture.
What makes it so difficult to get an honest picture of who we are and how we show up as a leader? It is that we try to hide our faults and insecurities, fearful that if anyone ever REALLY saw who we are, we would be rejected professionally and personally. But if we can’t be aware of what isn’t working for us or others, how can we change?
We all have the same fears.
When we hide those fears in dark places, they have more power over us and don’t get the opportunity to change. How much more effective could you become as a leader if you were able to voice and work on the fact that you…
- Are terrified to speak up in a meeting.
- Think the only way to be respected or hold your power is to do everything perfectly and NEVER make a mistake.
- Worry someone will figure out you don’t have any idea what you are doing.
- Think you have to be aggressive and in “fight mode” all the time to be a strong leader and influence others.
- Are so fearful about making a mistake that you are paralyzed about any action so much of the time.
- Beat yourself up with negative self-talk for being too big, too small, not smart enough, too bossy, not decisive enough, and on a very deep level simply not enough.
We become what we repeatedly do.
You have been practicing a pattern of response your whole life, which has created energetic, emotional, mental, and physical patterns of being.
- If you were taught that you were “too big” or it is dangerous to be “too big” in your size, voice, or energy you will practice making yourself small, quiet, and invisible. Unless you are aware of this and “rewire” your responses, speaking up in meetings, or standing up to someone verbally, will go against everything ounce of your being. And you will carry your body in such a way to not be “too big” which does not engender trust and respect from others.
- Maybe you were taught that the only way to get anywhere in life it to be the biggest, loudest, toughest person in the room. You will have practiced an automatic fight response to any situation many times using too much energy and power than needed resulting in lack of trust and respect with others. Walking around all big and tight and ready for a fight may get people doing what you want at times, but it will not create an environment of trust, creativity, feedback, and growth.
- If you learned that the only acceptable emotion is a happy smile, then you will approach all situations with a bubbly, happy disposition trying to make people like you to effect change. If you only have positive things to say, those you lead won’t trust that anything you say is true. You will come across as fake or ineffective when a more grounded, strong response is needed.
- When you get in a stressful situation, you have learned through your life experiences to have a “go-to reaction.” That may be to attack, run, check out/freeze, or try to charm your way out of a challenging situation or conflict. You will respond without even thinking about it or knowing that is what you are doing.
An important thing to accept is that you need not feel badly about how you have formed a pattern of being, of how you interact with life, that is blocking your abilities to move forward as a leader. It is simply a reality of being human.
What is exciting is that the pattern isn’t fixed. You can get clear about what you have been “practicing” through self-awareness, then learn to identify when your automatic response is occurring, and as a result make different choices that will create lasting change.
Result: Your automatic responses affect your leadership.
It most likely is REALLY easy for you to think of colleagues at work that fit the descriptions below. But if you are REALLY honest you can see yourself in some of these descriptions, too. Take a moment to glance down this list and check off where you may, at times, find yourself responding as a leader.
- Being rules oriented and not people oriented
- Demanding perfection
- Showing favoritism
- Little communication or over communication
- Not empowering others to succeed
- Not recognizing others for achievements they have made
- Using fear tactics to “motivate” others
- Butting into others responsibilities by doing things under their role without consulting with them
- Does not use conflict to correctly drive innovation
- Having low self-esteem and confidence
- Having emotional insecurity and immaturity
- Having difficulty owning responsibility for your mistakes
- Not willing or not able to change and grow
- Not listening
- Not caring or realizing how your actions impact others
- Analysis Paralysis – i.e. indecisiveness
- Ignoring needed change
- Not planning
- Not setting a clear vision
- Being a poor example of execution and accountability, but expecting others to execute
- Unwillingness to take risks
- Unable to take or improve from criticism
- Misinterpreting signs
- Overly negative or overly positive
Do you think any of these situations will be solved by learning new management and leadership techniques? Any new information may help a bit, but real change will only come when you become more self-aware and begin to practice a different way of being.
You see, the challenge of lasting change is inside your emotions and memories as well as in your head. And that is why self-awareness is so important.
New ideas don’t lead to change… only new practices. “Enlightenment is an accident; practice makes you accident prone””