Most leaders display an outward confidence that creates an aura of leadership gravitas. As a coach to leaders I have a unique vantage point to see “behind the curtain,” and it’s quite revealing.
When I begin an engagement with a leader, I see the title and the accomplishments. The confidence and the polish. And honestly, it can be a little unnerving at first. I’m a mortal in the presence of a super hero! And mere mortality seems insufficient.
Before long though, the leader gets comfortable enough to remove the super hero cape. And it’s refreshing. Even the leader’s relief is often palpable.
Before the public, executives often feel the need to posture as completely confident, even impenetrable. But under the surface they report feeling differently.
As a strong leader, do any of these feelings resonate with you?
The job is enormous, with much at stake. Conditions are changing at lightning speed. Competition is fierce.
The pressure causes some leaders to go it alone. They adopt a rugged, individualist stance that keeps people away – even their c-suite colleagues. Worse, some leaders become aggressive under the pressure and lash out as if compatriots were enemies in the camp.
New leaders want to put points on the board as fast as possible. They can initiate too many projects, send people in too many directions, and change directions too quickly.
This causes organizational dizziness and reduces effectiveness because efforts are spread across too many priorities. People working for the leader become incredibly frustrated.
Leaders at all levels admit to feeling like they will soon be found out. That they are not as talented or capable as people think. Or, that they have to keep faking it. This is a common and well-researched condition called the imposter syndrome that’s worth being aware of.
All this leads to feeling…
Leaders inadvertently keep people away when they feel the suffocating pressure that it’s all up to them, and that they must pretend they’ve got it all under control. They feel like the buck stops with them and no one can truly understand or help.
Do these feelings resonate at a personal level? Take heart! You’re not alone. Far from it, in fact. Beware the risk of isolating yourself to hide your weaknesses. Exhaustion comes from keeping up a front. And posturing drains energy that’s needed for your success.
What can you do?
- Find someone to talk to. A peer, a coach, a mentor. Find someone you can trust, with whom you can let your guard down. Someone who will listen more than talk, who will ask the hard questions, who will protect confidentiality, who will hold you accountable. Who is that person for you?
- Be willing to lead with questions instead of feeling you must be the provider of all solutions.
- Practice drawing ideas out of your people.
- Widen the funnel for intake of ideas.
- Enlist people to help with defining processes.
- Ask for feedback. People will be energized by being included, and they will be more forgiving when mistakes are made. And you’ll likely be amazed at the talent you have at your disposal.
In my coaching engagements, I’ve found beauty in the moment when the leader drops the cape. That moment is a subtle acknowledgement that we’re just people trying to do our best – juggling priorities, balancing commitments, sometimes feeling overwhelmed by expectations. But there’s relief in recognizing every one of us is a work in progress, and that we don’t have to go it alone.
Are you a leader coping with overwhelm, distractibility, or the imposter syndrome? Are you transitioning into a new leadership role and want to make the best start possible? Let’s talk. Your first step? Set up a complimentary coaching session so I can help you get a grasp on the challenges you’re facing.