Nothing, literally nothing, compares to the hardest and most important job in the world – raising children. And it’s not just parents who understand this – aunties, uncles, teachers, nannies, cousins, friends – all experience their fair share. As a mother of two (beautiful, extraordinary, hilarious) boys aged 7 and 9, the second I think I have this parenting thing all sorted, I’ve lost it again. That is because humans, particularly tiny ones, are unpredictable, uncontrollable, and infinitely creative in ways they come up with to reduce perfectly capable adult humans to puddles of raw emotion.
Just because you were once a child, doesn’t mean you automatically know how to raise one.
Similarly, just because you’ve been led, doesn’t automatically mean you know how to lead.
Leadership is a learned skill, second in difficulty only to raising children.
Many, many leaders are promoted to their position because they are great technical specialists and they’re given more people so they may add more value. They realise quickly they are ill-equipped to manage complex people dynamics and hardly want to admit it, well, because they believe it’s shameful to be promoted into a leadership role and not look like you know what you’re doing! This compounds over time and pretty quickly you have a stack of executives who are pretending to lead.
The reality is, leading is like parenting, only with bigger people who’ve learned how to mask their real emotions (only just!).
The challenge is, so much of leadership is paradoxical. To get people to do what needs to be done – we need to ask, not tell. To be perceived as courageous and resilient, we need to be vulnerable, not comfortable. To deepen trust and respect in a relationship, we need to give honest, raw feedback, not praise.
In her bestselling book “Dare to Lead”, Brené Browne tells us that the foundational skill of leadership is the willingness and ability to rumble with vulnerability.
“A rumble is a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts and, as psychologist Harriet Lerner teachers, to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard”.(p.10).
Sound scary? Of course, it is! Leading is terrifying! Embrace it. If you’re a leader and not feeling a little fear each day, you’re living in denial, which is far more dangerous because chances are – the people around you are feeling your fear for you.
If you haven’t perfected the art of leadership (or parenting for that matter), don’t beat yourself up. Join the club. Recognise where you are and commit to learning the skills that will elevate your impact.
Want to understand how my Team Alchemy program can help? Drop me a line.
Reference: Brown, B. (2018) “Dare to Lead: Brave work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts”. Penguin Random House, UK.