This is a very personal topic. I struggle with this continuously. It is the dreaded question we all ask ourselves; what do I have to do?
For me, this is extremely difficult because it comes with an overwhelming sense of being defeated. I have made every attempt to improve my knowledge, skills, and abilities through education and experience. In my most humble opinion, I fail horribly. Let me detail some reasons why I fail and why I keep repeating this failing behavior.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over exactly the same way, but expecting different results. Albert Einstein
If leading and managing were easy everyone would be really great at it and there would be few problems, issues, or situations in the world. I know, I am sounding a bit cliche here. Back to the ranch and the topic at hand.
What do I have to do? As an informal leader, this means I am not in a recognized and paid position for my leadership contributions, I am continuously seeking opportunities to convert my informal status to a very formal status. For some this seems to be a very simple process and becoming a formal leader or manager is almost divine plan. Here are a few issues which pose the most formidable barriers to my perceived success.
I am passionate. I throw myself completely into what I do. Sometimes I take too much ownership of things, especially things which are beyond my control or expertise. My passion is often misunderstood and is a major liability to my success as a leader. A good leader would temper passion and develop tactics to level the passion to relevant issues.
My perception is my reality. There is no such thing as a shared reality because we all carry our own biases and interpretations to our surrounding environment. There are moments when situations are shared, but still I will argue there is no such thing as a shared reality. I perceive things in extremes, I suppose because I worked in electronics for a number of years and things are on or off which is clearly extremes. The idea of shared reality is a detriment because I like to think people care about the things I care about, but very untrue. This leads to some resentment and my stubborn side manifests itself in very unfashionable moments. A good leader would absorb the various perspectives and adopt a more global reality taking into account the many players in a situation. My way is not always the best way or even a good way. Learning to recognize and develop others is a vital aspect of being a good leader.
Emotions are damning. Closely tied to being passionate, but not exactly the same because emotions are the demons who rear their ugly little heads and let situations go flying out the window. This might be the root of the question, what do I have to do? Emotions drive a sense of desperation in leading. What a good leader might do is employ personal tools to keep this little monsters in check. For me, I breathe and do a yoga meditation chant in my head. It works, the evil little critters scurry back to their cages in full retreat. I have spent years getting to the point where I see one loose and I go full-tactical so I do not become over-run by my emotions. Still, it happens. I have lost jobs because I let these destructive uncontrollable emotions overcome me at the wrong time. Note: too good of emotions can be not so great, it can create a euphoric attitude and then some one loses an eye and no one wants a loose eye rolling about!
Should. Very few things will go the way they should. I am a serial rehearser. I play situations out in my head over and over again, talking myself into what I think should happen. I will say this, I am not clairvoyant, and I cannot predict the future. There is a little strategy to controlling the should; every time I use should I stop myself and question why something should be the way I imagine. Three words I want to eliminate from my vocabulary are: subordinate, that, and should. I think the best way to get around this word which can play havoc with a mind is to be aware of one’s self and how it sets one up for success or failure. This is applicable to everyone, not just perspective leaders.
Say NO. Some place in my youthful adulthood I developed this very bad mantra; be all to all at all times. I am by no means a yes man, still I have a very difficult time saying NO. Good leaders know how and when to say NO. If people find out I cannot say NO, they will take full advantage of me and use me until I let the emotional demons run a muck. Over the years I have developed a sense of NO, very difficult, but it does exist and I wish I used it more often. I have occupied positions of leadership in my past and I am a very different animal when I am in a formalized leader position. I will use NO very liberally as a leader with those in my sphere of influence, but those outside of it I rarely say NO to because I want to be the best and I know how to drive to the best results. I will find a way. NO is a very hard pill to take for just about everyone in the world and it will be the creator of conflict before its sound stops resonating. A good leader not only can say NO, but can also justify it with grace and poise. I think it all takes practice to become proficient in saying NO.
Expectations can be good? Not always true, but expectations can be very good. First, expectations can be devastatingly destructive because it can set people up for blistering failure. Example: I expect to go to work and everything will go as smooth as a hot knife through room temperature butter, but then everyone else did not get my memo and it becomes a storm of disproportionate belief. One cannot go to work and expect everything to be perfect, not can one be the eternal pessimist and expect the worst to happen at each turn. These are personal expectations and rarely are they ever good. On the other hand, organizational expectations supported by sound policies, process, and procedures are very constructive to good leadership. A team without expectations is no team at all. Think about it, it a team takes the field of play without the expectation to win they will not employ strategy and tactics to drive success. There is a guy I know who always says, “No plan is planning to fail.” In leadership (and management) plans are expectations. Expectations are the plays used to achieve a win.
What the heck does all this mean? What do I have to do? I have to keep in my vigilant mind these things because these things can undo my best intentions in no time at all. These are not necessarily requirements for being a good leader, but these are my weaknesses and as such illuminate the possibility everyone else has their own set of weaknesses. There are strategies to develop and tactics to employ to disable these shortcomings in everyday life and as a leader. I encourage everyone to do a deep diving self-analysis and determine what barriers impede success for them.