It doesn’t take much of a search to find articles describing how to be a better leader.
A quick glance at LinkedIn reveals a field saturated with the next ten steps to improve your leadership, the five things critical to successful leadership, the one thing you actually need to do to improve as a leader, and the 38 things to stop doing immediately as a leader.
The field is so filled with these articles because we are starving for genuine leadership, and desperate to identify how to create that.
With the introduction of millennials to the professional workforce and departure of boomers from the same, there is a increasing demand for leadership that can blaze the trail toward tomorrow’s breakthroughs.
The problem with these articles is that they are focused on the how of being a leader.
Needing to Know How is the Problem
The problem is in that simple word: How.
In reality, the problem is rarely a lack of knowing how.
More often, the problem is that you are simply not choosing to.
Many leaders fall down because they are not choosing to take the next necessary action that will move their project, team, or organization forward.
There’s comfort in not knowing how. When we don’t know how, we can spend our time looking for “how-to’s”. We can devote time to expensive training and consulting. We can seek out expertise in having the challenging conversations.
All of this in an attempt to avoid the discomfort that will come when we finally choose to take the necessary action.
I’m not suggesting that there aren’t times when a competency in a particular area is the thing stopping a leader. It’s simply that there are cases when the problem really isn’t a lack of knowledge.
When a leader’s blind spot includes this distinction, it creates a vicious cycle. The leader seeks out knowledge and gets a rush when they create a new insight.
“Alright! That feels good, now I’m ready.”
But then they go to take the next action, and all of their fears come rushing back. The solution? Go and get more knowledge.
“I felt so close to being ready that first time — I must just need a little bit more information.”
And so on.
When the problem is that a leader isn’t choosing to take action, no amount of knowledge will ever be sufficient to overcome it.
The Ugly Truth
The truth is that most leaders are simply afraid to take the next necessary action that will move them forward.
It’s okay to have fear in the face of leading.
Instead of it being a sign that something is wrong, it actually serves as a compass to let you know that you’re operating outside of your comfort zone, and leading in to what is next.
Leadership, and the business of creating breakthroughs, doesn’t occur within the comfort zone.
The job of a leader is not to eradicate their fear, but instead to embrace it and act in the face of it.
This happens when you let go of needing to know how and instead simply choose to take the next required action.
Here are some ways you can put this distinction into action in your life:
- Where are you delaying action in the hopes that more knowledge is going to make things easier?
- What projects, under your ownership, are stalled? What is the next necessary action for those projects? What are you doing instead of taking that action?
- What do you want to avoid to be with when searching for information? What is the discomfort that you are hoping you’ll be able to avoid with enough insight and knowledge?
- And finally, as this entire article advocates, go and take the required action. Noticing how you’re sabotaging yourself isn’t leadership — taking the next action is.
(Original credit for the distinction of Knowing How vs. Choosing To goes to Dusan Djukich, of straightlinecoach.com)
What Makes a Better Leader?
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