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.

mastery is always just out of reach

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:

  1. Pretend you haven’t arrived.
  2. Focus on the strengths of others.
  3. Blame poor performance on yourself, not others.
  4. Apologize. When was the last time you said, “Please forgive me.”
  5. Ask a young person how you might be a better leader.
  6. Compare yourself to someone more competent.
  7. 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.