I’ve been enjoying rereading Allender’s Leading with a Limp. Depending on what is going on in my life, a book takes on new meaning and new significance in my life. Right now I am immersed in many business projects while at the same time I am writing up my findings for my dissertation research- so my life is very busy. But sometimes when we are the busiest, it is the perfect time to slow down for some moments of self-reflection. So while I think I have the least amount of time to read and blog about a book, it is turning out to be perfect timing.
I am particularly struck by two thoughts in this chapter. The first is that “To decide requires a death, a dying to a thousand options, the putting aside of a legion of possibilities in order to choose just one” (Allender, 2006, p. 14). It is interesting to think that every time I make a decision, I am bringing life to one choice but that means that all of the other “unchosens” are either dead or dying. So when I choose to spend time writing emails, my employees who I could have connected with are “dying.” And when I choose to multi-task in order to get four things done at one time, I am not giving dedicated time and attention to any one of those tasks and so the quality of my work is “dying.” When I choose to cancel a meeting with an employee, that employee is “dying.” While at first it seems dramatic to think of our unchosen decisions as dying, thinking in this mindset also puts new emphasis on the power of our leadership decisions. I am sitting here thinking about the choices that I would like to resurrect and those that need a breath of new life.
What options are “dying” in your life to become the chosen decisions?
The second concept in Chapter 2 that catches my attention is that “When we’re reluctant to lead, doubting ourselves and our call, we are ripe for growth as a leader” (p. 15). But wait- isn’t a leader supposed to be confident and full of self-assurance? Isn’t a leader who doubts him/herself one that is weak and difficult for followers to trust? Not exactly.
Consider this- when we are full of self-confidence we are usually acting on impulse. This is the way we always think, the way we always act, and so confidence propels us to follow the script in the exact ways that we have always done things. And because we are acting as we always do, we are not changing ourselves- we are simply doing as we always do. But, if I take a moment to question myself and pause to consider the other dying choices that have not previously gotten selected, I am on the brink of change. I am taking a moment to reconsider the scripts that I always follow and I am making room for some of those dying options to be resurrected. Pausing and questioning the way I have always done something gives me the opportunity to learn a new way and walk down a new path. And when we think a new way or take a new path, we are growing and changing as a leader. Sometimes it is good to leave confidence aside and stand in a place of doubt.
Being a leader doesn’t only mean that we are leading others to new places, we must also lead ourselves to new places. We must be willing to die to our old self and become someone new. Someone who is more worthy of being followed. But that requires taking a risk.
Am I willing to take a risk in changing who I have always been as a leader? What if people don’t like the new person that I am becoming? I may risk losing some of my followers. But then again, I may gain new followers. And those followers may be the ones that I am designed to lead. Is that a risk I am willing to take?
Communication will help you and your followers to feel secure as you embark on this new way of standing in moments of doubt. As you decide that you are going to pause and consider new directions for yourself and your followers, communicating your personal changes with others will help them to understand your new vision.
Consider approaching your employees like this: “I want to change who I am as a leader and I want to continue to grow and become even better at who I am. Please be patient with me as I make changes in myself. Are there any paths that you suggest that I look at as I am considering these changes?”
Now think about what you are thinking as you read that statement. Were you thinking, “I could never say that to my employees!” If that is what you are thinking, then know that you are still thinking in your current mindset and what we are talking about here is breaking out of your old self and becoming someone new as a leader! Are you willing to embark on that new path? If you are willing to break out of your current thoughts, then it is time to take the plunge and do something different and not allow your brain to take you back to your current scripts that guide all of your actions. Instead of thinking, “I can’t do that” think instead, “I know this is different, but I am going to do it anyway.”
Will you have funny feelings in your gut when you are doing something different that you have never done before? YES! Becoming a stronger leader means being OK with those uncomfortable feelings in your stomach. Are you willing to take that plunge?
MOMENT OF REFLECTION
This week I will take time to consider my “dying” options and look for ways to resurrect them. I will also take time to stand in moments of doubt rather than plunging forward with so much confidence that I act out of habit rather than responding in new ways. I will be mindful of the uncomfortable feelings in my gut and I will seek out more opportunities for discomfort because I believe that what doesn’t challenge me doesn’t change me. I am committed to my growth as a leader!