I grew up during the era of game shows. Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Hollywood Squares, Jackpot, The Price is Right…. On any given afternoon or evening, I would sit glued to the tube trying to guess the answers faster than the guests on the show. My favorite game show was Let’s Make Deal with Monty Hall. I didn’t see that there was too much skill in the game, after all it was really just about choosing between Door #1, Door #2, and Door #3 and being lucky enough to choose the door that didn’t have the booby prize of the donkey with the red bandana but instead being able to choose the one with the new car, the Hawaiian vacation or at least the one with the big screen tv. I’m convinced now that I loved that show as much as I did because it was a mindless activity that did not require much skill or knowledge and it was an easy way to walk away a winner. I knew the channel, I knew the time it came on and I knew the rules of the game. It was easy to walk away a winner on that show.
I think I was in middle school or high school while visiting my grandparents that I was introduced to Jeopardy. My first reaction to this new game show was, “I don’t want to play this, it’s too hard!” I wanted to go back to choosing Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3 by simply doing eenie, meenie, miney, mo and landing on the one that looked like it would be full of good stuff. Jeopardy required me to use my brain. And not just to use my brain about one specific subject, it required me to be knowledgeable about many different topics in multiple fields of study. It was because my grandparents would not relent to changing the channel that I was forced to endure the series of questions that got more and more difficult. One day I was halfheartedly watching and the line of questioning was about art. A painting by Salvador Dali flashed on the screen and I recognized it right away. I shouted the answer and felt an immediate burst of energy and excitement that I actually knew the answer! It was a rush to feel the pride of knowing the answer, but it was even more exhilarating to receive a pat on the back from my grandfather for getting the right answer- for showing him that I was worthy. This became our thing to do together. And I actually started to look forward to this time together. Yes, it was hard and I did not have all the answers. But now it was about the thrill of the challenge and the excitement of learning. We would write down the questions that we did not know and get out the encyclopedias and look up the answers and find out more about the Battle of the Bulge, Jonas Salk, Antarctica, and many, many other topics.
One night I was flipping channels and heard Monty ask for Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3 and it just didn’t have the same appeal that it used to. I had moved beyond the basic thrill of mindlessly making a choice between three known answers- 1, 2, or 3. I wanted to learn and grow and be challenged to move beyond my comfort zone and feel a greater sense of accomplishment- and also to be more of an integral part of the solution. Choosing which door was passive and even a robot could make that choice. Getting engaged with finding out the answers to history, art, music, poetry, geography, medicine- now that required talent, skill, time and involvement. The option was still there for me to watch Monty, but now my eyes were opened to so many other options that it was hard for me to go back.
It’s the same thing with leadership. Many of us have been popping into the same office for many years and going through the same mindless routine day in and day out. We have become not only comfortable with where we are, but what we do, and who we are as a leader.
Why have we gotten so comfortable? This is the first question to ask ourselves as leaders.
Is it because nothing more is expected of us?
Is it because we think we know everything there is to know about leadership?
Is it because we like ourselves just the way we are and don’t feel the need to change?
Is it because we don’t know where to start? (What does becoming a stronger leader really mean anyway?)
Is it because that’s the only channel we know and we just don’t know that there are any other possibilities for how to lead?
Is is because we don’t think that we have the time to devote to becoming a stronger leader?
WHAT IS IT THAT KEEPS US TUNING IN TO THE SAME CHANNEL EVERY SINGLE DAY
AND PICKING BETWEEN THE KNOWN CHOICES THAT LIE AHEAD OF US?
Now that you have determined why you are so comfortable, it’s time to ask- Am I willing to change? Keep in mind, that it is one thing to commit to reading a book, taking a class, or participating in a coaching session- it’s an entirely different activity to make the conscious decision to change how we lead. It takes willingness, openness, and mindfulness. Willingness to admit that we don’t know all of the answers, openness to new ideas that did not come from within us, and mindfulness to be aware of and more importantly attend to the characteristics that need to change.
Here is the challenge for the day….. Ask your employees- Is there something about me that needs to change in order for me to become a stronger leader?
The first step in becoming a stronger leader is getting comfortable with being vulnerable. Are you willing to expose your weaknesses and come face to face with who you are as a leader? Hmmmmmm….. Lots to think about as we commit to Leading with a Limp.