What do I want to say to you that you have not already read in a book, or on a blog, or seen on a Ted Talk?
What clever quote could I throw your way that hasn’t already been quipped?
What possible wisdom could I offer you other than the wisdom to keep quiet and walk along side you in your leading and sigh at your setbacks and smile at your achievements?
I want you to know, dear leader, as you walk your journey, that there are many things you are and there are many things you are not.
You are not perfect. Now I know you know this, and maybe you live under the false impression that all good leaders are, but even the strongest leaders are human – and therefore not perfect. Take the idea that you have to always get it right, say it right, do it right, live it right, and get it out of your head. I’m not saying perfection isn’t what is expected by others. I’m not saying that people will not be quick to tell you where you are flawed, and will find some secret pleasure in pointing out your mistakes. I’m saying that they are right. You do stink at a lot of what you do. You are not perfect. You do forget. You do get tired. You do worry. You do get angry. You are human. So take your human, flawed, messy self and lead with humility and be an imperfect leader.
You are not supposed to please everyone. Again, I know you know this, and you also know that leading in conflict sucks. You are under the false impression that if everyone is happy that there is no conflict. That is a fallacy. Living in that idea is a way of playing make believe. Of course there is conflict, and there always will be. Get over it. Accept it. Embrace it. Don’t run away from it. Fall in love with it. Fall in love with conflict? Yep. Get right in there and snuggle up to it and say, “Oh, conflict, I am so happy to see you! What are you going to teach me today? How will I grow or change because you, beautiful conflict, stand before me? Most importantly how will you make the organization healthier because we are using you, conflict, to address things that need to be said and do things differently?” Don’t be afraid of conflict. Let conflict do it’s job. It is there for a reason.
You are not going to achieve anything by trying harder. You know how you think if you just try hard enough things will change, get better, move along? You are wrong. You cannot lead change by trying harder. You will join Don Quixote in battling windmills, and frankly wear yourself out. You can reframe the challenge. You can speak the truth. You can ask a different question. The only thing you achieve by banging your head against the wall, is a headache. Don’t try harder, try something different.
Dear Leader, I don’t know what is in store for you today, and maybe you don’t know either. What mountain will you be climbing today? What unexpected challenge will you face? Whatever it is, trust yourself. Breathe. Speak from the heart. Listen. Look out for traps, hooks, pitfalls, and stumbling blocks. Do not let your feeling of empathy override your feeling of clarity. Your clarity will come by looking beyond the ego and leaning into me.
Lean into me and you will be strengthened with all the resolve, courage, and words you need to make it through this challenge and the next.
Remember, I am with you always, until the end of the age.