Too often I see leaders in positions who are presenting an academy award level of acting to cover up their leadership deficits. Although they are not aware of how transparent their struggles might be, it is painful to see them struggling. Worse, is that many of them think they have either no one to turn to, or that they must figure out all of their challenges independently. They don’t. However, they often grapple with thinking they need to do so.
Yes, even seasoned leaders can struggle with coming up with the “how” to do something. This is occurring because of the unfortunate reality that although there is plenty of access to information both on-line and in person, the conundrum is knowing what questions to ask to sort out finding a solution.
Being able to articulate what challenges a leader may be having seems like it would be easy. It’s not, and this is because when leadership challenges are occurring, the outcome goes one of two ways. The first way is that the leader realizes they may not have the experience to soley come up with a solution. They then reach out to others on their team or their trusted advisors for help. The other way isn’t pretty. It’s when a leader thinks they independently need to come up with a solution on their own. They also don’t ask for help. Then the “situation” is ignored and festers. Often what then happens, is there is no longer the luxury of time, and the “situation” must be addressed under less than desirable circumstances.
Not only is it frustrating for the leader to be in the position of feeling they can’t ask for support to help them know “how” to address a situation, but it is also equally painful for those who are in supporting roles. Ones in fact that could help them. However, we have all heard the expression “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink the water.” When this is happening, the leader is typically in a crisis and will often resort to pressing the “ignore button”. Of course, they may not want to, but they have not been taught “how” to perhaps ask for help.
Having a leader who is comfortable asking for help or support is the optimal place you want to be as a leader. It’s important to recognize that doing so will not diminish your credibility. Conversely, it can diminish your leadership credibility if you don’t allow yourself to be open minded, and vulnerable enough to realize you don’t have to have all the answers. In other words, being a leader is a “team sport”. Picking a sport analogy to this thinking, is that you are either the quarterback or the coach of the team. You might be expected to know more than you do, but this doesn’t mean you can’t be progressively learning and being supported along the way. Spoiler alert. The best leaders are always evolving. They will also never tell you they know everything they need to know to be highly effective in their leadership role.
For context, consider someone you know who is a business leader or a sports coach. What are the leadership attributes you admire about them? Are these attributes they were born with, cultivated over time, or perhaps both? Now, think about the best leader you have ever encountered. They could be someone that led you, or perhaps were someone you witnessed their leadership in action. What are some of the actions they took which made them a strong leader? I’m certain you will have at least a half dozen characteristics you will be able to site.
As I was coming up the leadership track, I soon realized there are two types of people I would interact with. The first were those who were unwilling to share information with me, and the second type were those that were readily doing so. The first group withheld information because they were under the impression that giving away information would diminish their power. Conversely the other group freely dispersed information and shared it with you proactively. They were never concerned about whether sharing information was going to diminish their authority or power.
When I quickly realized that the second group was the type of people I wanted to be around, and also be a role model for, it opened up many possibilities to grow as a leader. Most importantly, to be able to ask others about “how” I could help them accomplish something.
Being able to ask others “how” to do something seems like an elementary concept. Yet, it isn’t one that is as readily embraced as often as you think it would be. Leaders and sports coaches who struggle with inquiring about “how” to do something are not in an enviable position. In fact, most that do not get to the level of being able to comfortably ask for “how”, or help in sorting challenges out, will find they have a reduced amount of time in their role. Or, they will be highly ineffective as a leader, and will eventually be asked to step down from their role.
If you or someone you know who is in a leadership or sports coach role that is challenged with being able to ask for support in any capacity relating to your role, here are some suggestions you can consider.
- Ask yourself why you think you need to know everything? Are you answers reasonable or erring on being absurd?
- Is fear contributing to being reluctant to discuss how you can succeed?
- Break down your thinking about why you are resisting asking for help. Do you subconsciously believe you are not going to succeed?
- On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest, how aware are you of your strengths and deficits?
- Are your deficits going to hold you back from being an effective leader if you don’t address them?
- Realistically, are you honestly and completely tapping into your extraordinary talents yet?
- Are your strengths and natural leadership abilities strong enough to lean on if you don’t further invest in them to be an impactful leader?
- What are you doing to continually allow yourself to grow as a leader?
- What is the worst thing that can happen if you don’t address getting the support you need to become a more effective leader?
Although leaders and sports coaches have the spotlight on them, at the end of the day, they are technically in a supporting role for those they lead. If a leader isn’t thinking of themselves in this capacity, it will be far more difficult than it needs to be for them to realize they can be a much more impactful leader if they were to adopt this type of leadership philosophy.
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