The Almost – But Not Quite – Leader
Hands go up when I ask, “How many have room to grow as leaders?” But, when I say, “Tell me where you need to grow,” it’s quiet. Heads nod when I say, “Leaders are learners.” But, when I ask, “What are you learning,” shoes get fascinating.
Arrogance believes in its own mastery.
I asked one of the most famous leaders in the world how he was dealing with his frailties. He looked at me like a cow looks at a new gate.
Sadly, we seem to need the myth of mastery.
Arrogance is obvious on the speaking circuit where some presenters propagate the myth that they’ve mastered something. You also see arrogant fakery in leaders who have no faults or weaknesses, but have all the answers.
Mastery is myth.
A leader walks on a beach and picks up a bottle. A genie pops out and says, “I give you two wishes.”
The leader says: “Wow, I’d like to have world peace.”
The genie thinks for a second and says,
“That’s too hard! What’s your second wish?”
The leader says, “Well, I’m turning 60 and I want to master leadership.”
The genie thinks for a second and says, “What was your first wish again?”*
The almost, but not quite leader:
Mastery is always just out of reach, regardless of where you are.
7 ways to be an almost, but not quite, leader:
- Pretend you haven’t arrived.
- Focus on the strengths of others.
- Blame poor performance on yourself, not others.
- Apologize. When was the last time you said, “Please forgive me.”
- Ask a young person how you might be a better leader.
- Compare yourself to someone more competent.
- Ask more questions. Listen closely to answers. Arrogance ejects curiosity.
The gifts of humility are space for growth and hope for the future.
How might leaders face the beast of arrogance?
*Adapted from a joke Yo-Yo Ma told on himself before his 60th birthday.
There is an ongoing tension between the confidence to bring others (and self) forward, and keeping ego in check…
Rather than think tension ~ conflict, think tension ~ violin string – where music happens 🙂
Thanks Ken. Brilliant observation. A leader without any ego is a failure. Although I’m not sure how to live the violin string illustration, it feels right. 🙂
(I may be wrong but..) I think you authoring this Blog is a way you live the violin string! 🙂
Interesting. There is a measure of achievement coupled with anxiety and doubt. 🙂
And to your first two questions, I would always first answer “everywhere” and “everything,” because no matter what I might know, I am also acutely aware (this late in life, because trust me, when I was younger, it took much bigger mistakes on my part to convince me of the following), that no matter how accomplished others might think I am, or I might fool myself into believing, there is ALWAYS someplace to go from where I am, and that is the joyful (and at times uncomfortable) truth of it for me.
That said, I am sure that at any time, I could then drill down to one or two vexing things that I would like to get MUCH better at sooner than later. Ha.
In the end, thinking of any kind of end state such as “mastered” or “evolved” or “excellence” seems tired and full of resistance. I prefer to think of how I, and whomever I am working with, might bring more expansion, improvement and joy into the moment-to-moment game, treating each gain, milestone, or win as on a waypoint, which we can celebrate, before then moving on to more inspired process. 🙂
Thanks Mark. Your language speaks to me. Expansion and joy are powerful. Working with a leader includes bringing them into an open field where thinking is wider. Cheers
I have learned Leadership has many tangents so we may never master everything because the circumstances are always changing.
We do what we know best, and learn what we don’t know to achieve another level always evolving into a better leader, if you learn from the lessons of humility on the journey.
Life is a constant change as so is Leadership.
Thanks Tim. You hit the nail on the head when it comes to never mastering leadership. “Circumstances are always changing.”
I was thinking about how leadership is about people and people are often a mystery. 🙂
Just my humble experience on my journey so far.
When the leader stops growing, the team will begin to die, or replace the leader. To continue to take the team to higher and higher levels of performance requires that the leader grows. I would also guess that the reason there was “crickets” when you asked where they need to grow is that they may have never seriously considered the qualities and skills a leader should display.
Thanks for your writing and continuing to challenge all of us with your posts!
Thanks Jay. Your comment speaks to one of the most challenging ideas of leadership. Organizations don’t grow beyond their leaders. If that isn’t motivation to engage in self-development, I don’t know what is.
Even though I have retired from my career vocation, your posts along with other sources of information and inspiration keep me keenly aware of the ways I could be a better leader and example in my family, my circle of friends, my faith and my community. I hope to never stop learning and growing! Thank you!
Thanks Jim. I’m so glad that you see leadership as something that applies to every aspect of life. I wish more people understood that idea…especially as it applies to moms and dads.
Over and over, readers tell me that leadership principles apply in school, home, work, sports, church, and more… Cheers
Your so correct about people and lives, I’m seeing your picture of Leadership filling a void in many aspects of life! Thank you for having the vision to share with us to make a difference beyond work.
Sometimes I have tunnel vision on your Blog, we need to see the entire picture!