Leadership can be challenging to say the least. As good leaders, we work on developing our emotional intelligence, leadership maturity, and skills daily. Despite this constant journey of growth and maturing, it can be perplexing in the midst of leadership challenges to discern what is “me” and what is others. In the crosshairs of conflict, is that “my” issue or theirs? As great leaders, we are taught to own our 1%, 10%, 25%, 50% …. Or whatever percent of the issue might be ours. Often it is additionally challenging as “followers” might not have the same development and skills and take potshots, spread rumors, lies, immature perspectives and are unable to see a two-way street. They rather stand convicted in their “victim-ness” as a result of your poor leadership. This is a challenging place from which to lead.
It would be understandable if the leader wanted to sink to the pit and engage in similar criticism, insults, disparaging, and bitterness. Also common would be for the leader to want to defend himself, defend decisions, and share the history of what has happened. We know where the story is not told, people make up a story. The leader wants to share the juicy details and the step by step slide that has happened, but a mature leader knows that is not right.
Leadership is tough and the balance to be authentic, vulnerable, and transparent while being appropriate and discerning is a tough line to find. Another challenge that can destroy a leader is the stress, pain, never-ending musing, and questions interrogating a leader at night and in the quiet recesses of their mind. What is my responsibility? What could I have done differently? Was this me? How did this happen? Where did things go wrong? Am I creating this? Is this my fault? Is this my responsibility? Is this because I am bad at xyz?
The leader strives to maintain the high road, owning their part, trying to learn through the challenge but runs the risk of owning it all because the other party can’t own any of their side of the issue, so the leaders 1% to whatever % is the only thing on the table for the group to inspect, assess, and hold responsible for the challenge in front of the organization.
So how do leaders hold their sanity and not take more responsibility for challenges than they should? (note: this is not an easy scapegoat for the leader who does not take responsibility, this is for the leader on the edge of burnout, heart attack, breakdown, and brokenness because they HAVE taken to much responsibility and desperately need to restore perspective and healthy balance.) Leaders have to reflect so that they can lead forward while holding their team accountable. Accountability is having shared agreements on the table so when there is a break down in actions, people, and tasks, something is off. Our work as leaders is to find what is off and close the gap. Stand in the sage place of curiosity and learning to non-defensively seek to understand and strengthen the design so that action and results can be achieved.
Use these questions to help reflect and navigate:
- What is the goal, the common mission, and the bigger purpose we are all working toward?
- How can I empathize with the struggle or challenge?
- What do I need to get curious about and understand better?
- What is the high road; what does that response sound like?
- What is my part in this? How can I communicate, equip, empower, support better?
- What gift is this giving me? What am I becoming aware of that I can upgrade? (in myself, systems, others, etc.)
- What redesign is needed? What action is needed?