Is a leader born or made? Yes. Becoming a great leader means getting in touch with your human frailties as well as your strengths. It means breakdowns and breakthroughs.
Breakdowns can and often do lead to breakthroughs. First you have to face the tiger. To use myself as an example, about 27 years ago I was angry at my then husband AND I had been told by my doctor to see a specialist, but first I had to face a tiger. My husband and I attended John Scherer’s Leadership Intensive at a retreat center in snowy Idaho. There were tears. There was drama. Clarity arose from the fog and in the end, love and peace shined through.
We had faced our tigers. Still ahead were two confronting outcomes. First, a cancer diagnosis and a year of healing. Disease is symptomatic of tigers we aren’t facing. Louise Hay wrote, “You can Heal your Life,” describing how limiting beliefs and ideas cause of illness, and “Heal your Body.”
Second, a divorce. But the issue was never really the marriage or the cancer, it was me and my relationship to myself. It always is. Being a leader whom others want to follow requires consistent self-examination.
I never stop growing through personal transformation courses, in service of what I am up to. My promise for the world, expressed through my work, is to support leaders to lead with integrity, with love, and listen for peoples’ greatness. AND, I wake up every day a human being.
The Many Monikers of the Tiger
Blind Spots, the Dark or Shadow Side, our Evil Twin, the Disowned Self, Facing the Tiger. Call it what you will, it is any aspect of yourself that you don’t want to be responsible for — and you don’t know it! It’s ugly. I attended a personal development course several years after my divorce, in which the leader called me a “Dominating Bossy Bitch”. I could hardly breathe! WHAT? I saw myself as nice, kind, thoughtful.
I have faced that tiger too. I freely admit I am sometimes a dominating bossy bitch, DBB for short. In fact, I know that when I am in service of my commitment for the world, if nothing else is empowering me to make a difference, I play that DBB card because it forwards the action toward the greater good to which I am committed. AND, I can be responsible for what was previously a blind spot that is now an aspect of my humanity I own, so it no longer owns me; an important distinction!
A decade ago, I brought John in to speak to a CEO group I was facilitating about this essential ingredient to their leadership journey. John and I stay in occasional touch and I am grateful to call him a friend.
We are in the human condition together, and we all have tigers. When you suppress your tigers, or think you are hiding them from others, or ignore them, your energy is slowly being consumed by those tigers.
During Covid I attended (via Zoom) John Scherer’s 80th Birthday party. John is living and working in Warsaw, Poland where he recently released “FACING THE TIGER, Unleashing the Human Spirit at Work” co-authored with Dorota Nawalaniec. Facing the Tiger means confronting what is eating your insides, undistinguished. The first act is one of courage to see, then own it and being responsible for its impact on you and others. Easier said than done, so people pretend and resist and deny and remain stuck. Getting unstuck provides one access to becoming a leader.
For example, when I was battling cancer 27 years ago, in the midst of my chemotherapy experience I went to visit my college bestie in Houston, Texas where she was living at that time. (Since then I’ve hummed a few familiar bars of music with the words, “I left my hair in Houston, Texas”). During that visit I complained to her that my then-husband was passive-aggressive. I bought a book on passive-aggressive behavior to read on the plane ride home and realized, “SHOOT! He’s not passive-aggressive, I AM!”
Powering Up Your Team, Your People Builds Your Business Growth Muscle
Whether you already lead people or you want to lead people, the booby prize is knowing ABOUT transforming yourself into someone whom people respect and want to follow. Whether you KNOW you’re an ordinary Joe/Jane (we all are) or you THINK you’re above it all, you actually hold real leadership responsibilities! Someone, or several someone’s are counting on you!
In summary, being a leader requires you to:
- Embrace your humanity, because you’ll make mistakes.
- Be responsible for your humanity, which means owning those mistakes.
- Be generous in listening to others and their humanity, which means forgiving them for their mistakes.
- Get over “me, me, me” and focus on the good you want to bring to others.
- Find your humility no matter what you accomplish so others can relate easily with you.
- Don’t pretend to be perfect, because you aren’t.
- Don’t pretend to have all the answers, because you don’t. Be vulnerable instead, which allows others to be vulnerable with you.
- Keep learning and growing. The world isn’t going to stop and salute just because you think you’ve arrived. That means remaining a lifelong learner, occupying what Dr. Carol Dweck calls a “learning mindset” so that you are always on the climb, always striving for your next learning moment.
- Remain humble, even when you’ve accomplished great things, so that those around you can feel comfortable to tell you their truth and even point out what you’ve missed. No one is EVER better than anyone else. We share the human condition; sometimes up, sometimes down. Look around. It’s never all about you.
If you are a senior executive team member in a growing company you are well aware there are no perfect people. Yet the coordinated effort of your team requires organizing principles to Communicate, Execute and Optimize your growth strategy. Consider adding Growth Coaching and Consulting for your senior executive team.
If you are an emerging leader, “being a leader” development is available through the six-month Emerging Leader Accelerator, facilitated by yours truly.
Are you “cooked and done” as a leader after six months in an Emerging Leader Accelerator? No, your growth and development should be ongoing. Human beings fall back into bad habits because we are human beings. That is why I stay in growth and development mode myself. If your ego is speaking, that’s all “me, me, me.” If you are emerging as a leader, find and invite ongoing support.