Like most things in life, leadership doesn’t get easier and it’s present in all aspects of our life. This means, there are hard parts within leadership, but not to fear, once identified you embrace and leverage them.
Last week I wrote about Accepting there isn’t one answer (or one way), dealing with unexpected outcomes and being misunderstood. This week I want to cover four more.
Know your edges – You have a top and a bottom in your skill set and you have edges that are the boundaries of who you can be with these skills. These aren’t just how good you are at your job, or technical skills, but also your emotional intelligence and how you behave. A good example of your edges is your your ability to engage when under a lot of stress or your empathy. They are what they are, but knowing them, acknowledging them and working around them is the hard part.
Knowing who you are on your worst days and what you can accomplish on your best days creates a strong framework for an aware and emotionally intelligent leader. Knowing who you are on good and bad days allows you to be cognizant for when you hit an edge so you can fill gaps or step aside.
You are not the smartest person in the room – It’s often tough to admit you don’t have the answer, since after all, you are the leader. But a really important transformation happens when one not only admits they don’t know everything but actually ensures they are never the smartest person in the room. It’s an attitude and thankfully, one that can be learned!
Surrendering to conflict – Words like conflict have been labeled as negative, something that causes stress and should be avoided. The fact is though, that it’s impossible to avoid conflict, so why label it good or bad? Instead, embrace it. It’s hard because we often submit to conflict instead of surrendering to it.
Conflict solves problems, builds emotional intelligence, and allows for creativity to flourish. The hard part is not letting your ego get in the way.
Coming to grips with the fact you are not an imposter – You can’t make the voice go away, but you can come up with a better response. One of the tough parts about leadership and the corresponding success is thinking that it’s luck or a one-off. You find yourself having constant thoughts that you are a fraud and everyone will find out. When you get curious you discover an interesting thing, it’s a false voice, that only serves to knock you down.
Seth Godin says, it’s rampant (the imposter syndrome). The big reason is that we’re all impostors. You’re not imagining that you’re an impostor, it’s likely that you are one. Everyone who is doing important work is working on something that might not work. And it’s extremely likely that they’re also not the very best qualified person on the planet to be doing that work. How could it be any other way? The odds that a pure meritocracy chose you and you alone to inhabit your spot on the ladder is worthy of Dunning-Kruger status. You’ve been getting lucky breaks for a long time. We all have. Yes, you’re an imposter. So am I and so is everyone else. Superman still lives on Krypton and the rest of us are just doing our best. Isn’t doing your best all you can do? Dropping the narrative of the impostor isn’t arrogant, it’s merely a useful way to get your work done without giving into Resistance. Time spent fretting about our status as impostors is time away from dancing with our fear, from leading and from doing work that matters. The great part of this is that it’s only a voice and although you can’t make it go away, you can create a better response, such as “go fuck yourself, not only am I not an imposter, I’m a rock-star!”
The way I’ve dealt with the imposter syndrome is by acknowledging its voice, saying hello, and then goodbye. At its source, I recognize it comes from being uncomfortable with loneliness and the more I become excited about loneliness the better I get at focusing.
I’ll be back next week with the final three hard parts of leadership.