Updated: Oct 26, 2018
Leadership was never meant to be comfortable...
Before delivering a new leadership program with a large organisation in Australia, the senior leader of the department called me to say she hoped the day went well. She then explained that after our launch, one of the leaders attending the program had approached her to say that he felt that, as a facilitator, I was going to challenge them too much in the program. She said that she had told the leader that yes, this program was going to challenge them and that was a good thing. Then as the program was underway, another senior leader and I were reviewing the program and she also mentioned that one of the leaders had approached her too, saying that he felt that the conversations around self awareness with his fellow leaders were uncomfortable. This leader also told him that this was a great thing and to move with it. I then received an amazing testimonial from a participant of our Extraordinary Minds program which authentically and humorously expressed his discomfort throughout the program, however said at the end that the program changed his life because he dived into it. In fact in all of these programs, the leaders at the end said that they had gained so much from their own introspection and from the reflections of their fellow leaders.
Just to be clear, we had not been talking about childhood issues, the state of our marriages or our darkest secrets. We had been talking as leaders about self awareness, evolving our personalities and how we are showing up and impacting others. This included sharing their experience of each other on the program. Fundamental leadership conversations.
It dawned on me that as The Field had begun to really focus on self awareness, I had become a facilitator of discomfort. What I realised was that the traditional avoidance of this discomfort was the very thing that was holding organisations back from having the leadership they needed and thriving teams they needed. Conversations and decisions don’t happen because vulnerability is treated like all other business risks: Mitigated out.
In her new book “Dare to Lead”, Brene Brown plainly says that self awareness and self love matter, and are critical to leadership. This defines how we show up in difficult situations. In her research with over 10,000 people, the majority of leaders all said that they felt many types of fear on a regular basis, so feeling fear is not the issue. Their response to that fear was what set the effective from ineffective leaders apart.
‘Leading people’, which is different to ‘managing things’ requires the willingness to know how we are being seen and knowing the impact we are having or not having. This is not a comfortable undertaking. It is so much more comfortable to go to meetings, share knowledge and answer emails. In dealing with thousands of leaders ourselves, we have seen many clever people who are masters of their field be ineffective at best and damaging at worst because they should have stepped down to make room for someone who was willing to develop their leadership.
What are your thoughts on this?
The Field runs a leadership development program called ‘The Extraordinary Minds Program’ for organisations who believe that their people will always be their greatest success story!