My house has been a bit of a hotel lately. For the last month there has been a constant flow of friends and family visiting. It has been fun.
I like people staying over because it gives me a chance to catch up with people. As happens our conversations covered mutual friends, family members, life, and work. I want to talk about the work conversations because they have all been about leadership. Maybe it's the nature of the work I do, or maybe it's just the latest issue, but it has been a common theme.
Nearly everyone I have spoken to is frustrated at work. No wonder, the recession means that everyone is doing more with less. That combined with the fear of losing one's job; the desire to develop; frustrations with management; and the feeling of being trapped - have made for some unhappy friends.
Like my friends, I would imagine lots of people see something that needs to change, but they can't bring themselves to step forward and lead. The excuses vary - I am not paid to do that. I don't make as much as_________. That is not in my job description. Isn't that my boss' job? No one cares what I have to say. I tried and it didn't work. No one else cares.
Being a leader involves accepting responsibility for something whether you have to or not. It is a big test. Here are 5 barriers that stop inexperienced leaders from stepping forward:
Being a leader means seeing your success differently. You cannot look for rewards and congratulations; because they may be few and far between. Good leadership is always recognised, but the way you are recognised is likely to be different than it was when you simply did a good job. Being a leader does not mean that people are going to congratulate you for a job well done. Recognition for being good leader can often come in the form of increased responsibility; people sharing their challenges with you; and an increased understanding of the bigger picture. These can all add to your stress as a leader, but leading shouldn't be about recognition. A leader's job is to recognise others and know what their personal impact is.
Before speaking in public many people get butterflies in their stomach. The same is true when stepping forward to lead. The questions people ask themselves are often the same: What am I going to say? Why would anyone listen to me? What if I don't have an answer? In my experience, butterflies are healthy, they demonstrate that not everything is known or guaranteed. Having butterflies in one's stomach makes sure that you keep your feet on the ground. Too often fear causes people to hug a tree and then they go nowhere.
Not knowing puts you one step closer to learning. If you think you know something, you are less likely to try and learn. But somewhere we've been taught that leaders should know everything. Some of the best leaders I have met are not experts in their field. They let the experts be experts and they get on being experts in building relationships and supporting others. However, it takes practice to admit when you don't know something and too often we don't practice this enough.
"I've done a good job." And "I work harder than everyone else." And "They can't do this to me." are all phrases that pepper conversations with friends. It is true that we have specific rights. It is also true that the world is not always fair or just. To be a leader you have to be willing to let go of your feelings of entitlement. The world will not always play by the rules and treat your fairly. You have to accept this and move on.
Who likes to fail? Not me. I remember being told when I was younger that "you don't know until you try." It is true, you've got to try in order to fail; you also need to try in order to succeed. Failure takes a personal toll that is difficult to cope with, but it is also essential for learning. Occasionally the price of failure is catastrophic; more often our fear makes the consequences larger than they appear.