Leaders: You Are Allowed to Be “In Development”

I spend a lot of my time coaching business leaders, emerging and established ones, on their leadership and communication skills. And the best versions of these conversations occur when the leader is willing to make themselves vulnerable and share with me what keeps them “up at night.”

The list of things that cause sleeplessness for business leaders is long, and somewhat varied. The list includes lots of things you would absolutely expect: business performance, growth, managing a team, new product launches, corporate transactions, culture… all the things that leaders have to manage.

But there are a few things that also always seem to also come up in these conversations, and that might surprise you. In my experience, many leaders worry about what will happen when they fail to live up to expectations. Many leaders are afraid of the consequences, real or perceived, that might occur if they are not perfect in their leadership. In other words, many leaders are petrified of making mistakes. I hear it all the time.

I am not here to give a pass to all leaders, or to suggest that there is no such thing as “bad leadership.” Of course there is.

But I am here to share with all leaders that you are allowed to grow. You are allowed to learn. And as we all tell our kids every day, growth is about making mistakes. And yes, learning from those mistakes. But if we, as human beings are going to grow, mistakes are part of the journey. This is true at every stage of our lives, including our professional lives, and especially including our leadership lives. Your development does not end the moment you get into that leadership seat… in fact, in many ways your development is about to go into hyper-drive.

Leadership is hard. The higher you climb inside an organization, and the bigger the organization you lead, the more challenging the situations will be… the more delicate the balance will be between one choice vs another… and the more “no win situations” that will come across your desk. The bigger and more high profile the role, the more likely that every decision you make will disappoint someone. Which means in almost every decision you make, someone will feel justified in giving you a “bad leadership” grade.

You are allowed to grow. You are allowed to make mistakes. What the best leaders do, however, is whenever possible try to explain why certain decisions were made, de-personalize the reactions, and learn from the experiences.

I lead a comparatively tiny organization, with a great culture, filled with outstanding colleagues who are also outstanding people. And even inside our tiny little company, there are decisions that come up that I know will satisfy some and disappoint others. I have made more than my fair share of mistakes, and I too have been petrified of the bad leadership grade that someone on my team might give me.

But a big part of my journey has been to learn to give myself a break. If you can look in the mirror, and say with confidence that you made the best decision you could, based on the information you had available, and that you had good intentions, then you should try to allow yourself to sleep well at night. You have done your job.

Good leadership is not about never making mistakes. Good leadership is about being honest, transparent, treating others with respect, and making consistent decisions based on your vision.

Leaders… don’t forget to give yourself a break once in a while.

Have a great day.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.