One common thing that we all share is the need for comfort. We all want to be in an environment where we feel safe, warm and secure. There is nothing wrong with that...right? Usually no. But when it comes to leadership, that answer turns into a big YES.
One thing humans absolutely excel at is building walls. I am not talking about literal walls. I am talking about the walls created by our thoughts. Whoa, deep right? Stick with me. Our need for comfort pairs incredibly well with our ability to protect and shield ourselves from things that make us uncomfortable. It makes us feel good to block out the things we do not like.
For example, let's say that you absolutely hate public speaking. You likely avoid it at all costs. You avoid it because your brain knows it makes you anxious and unsettled. Essentially, your brain has added a brick to your four walls surrounding you that says "I don't like public speaking". So you keep those situations outside of the four walls and that keeps you feeling comfortable. If you are in a leadership position, the need for public speaking is probably there all of the time. But I am guessing that you delegate it to someone else every chance you get. You may even dress it up as a development opportunity for them. Saying something like, "Hey Pat, why don't you go over last month's results for the team. It will give you some good experience!" Pat will think of it as an opportunity, and you will get to retreat right back into the comfort of your four walls. But what you are really doing is avoiding leadership. By avoiding the things that make you uncomfortable, you are robbing yourself of the ability to lead.
Most of us are not vulnerable enough to admit when we are uncomfortable. Leadership is not always being confident and stoic. Sometimes the most important leadership moments happen when you are most uncomfortable. When you venture outside of your four walls and take a chance.
In our previous scenario, maybe Pat is a fantastic public speaker. For some people, it just comes naturally. What a great opportunity it would be to recognize Pat's strength and acknowledge your weakness. Rather than asking Pat to do your job, you can learn from them. Taking an approach like, "Pat, you are such a fantastic public speaker. I have really admired how easy you make it look when you present to the team. I don't know if you have noticed or not, but I am terrified to speak in public. That's usually why I ask you to do it! But I know that in order for me to further develop my own skills, I need to ask for some help. What kind of pointers do you have for me?" You see, Pat now has an opportunity to work with you in a way that will be so much more meaningful to them. The opportunity to build trust and really get some insight into what makes Pat tick is worth its weight in gold. Employees very rarely get to help develop their managers. But there is no rule saying that development can only flow top-down.
Leadership is all about opportunity. Every single day you have opportunities to become a better leader. But the problem is, you need to emerge from behind those four walls in order to see the opportunity. There are so many leadership cliche's floating around that we have convinced ourselves that clicking "like" on a post or saying the right things in a meeting with other managers is enough to exercise your leadership muscles. It isn't.
Public speaking is just one example of a brick that could be contributing to your walls. The first step is to identify what bricks are making you too comfortable. Choose one that makes the most sense for your current situation, and start the process of removing it. You will be amazed at the relationships you can build with your employees. But it starts with one brick. And only you know what brick that is.
Follow @Le8der for more leadership advice and ideas. I would love to hear about the bricks you are removing! Send me a message on Instagram or Twitter for your chance to receive a free copy of my book, Take a moment, then lead. I look forward to hearing from you!