There are many amazing leadership programs out there.
But in my observation, there is one major flaw with any I’ve been a part of:
They attempt to turn unique individuals into dogmatic cookie-cutter robots.
Now, there is nothing wrong with learning a methodology. I’m a big believer in ongoing self-education, and I plan to remain a lifelong learner. And I have found value in many methodologies.
Methodologies can offer many benefits – context, communication tools, increased productivity, cognition about oneself, and much more.
But I have yet to find a single program that doesn’t quash the individual in favor of conformity and uniformity – intentionally or unintentionally.
This tends to remove what made the individual uniquely attractive in the first place.
One should never lose sight of their distinctive spark if they hope to become a powerful leader.
That spark is what makes them a leader. They have no chance of becoming an effective leader if they think and behave as everyone else does. It’s because they think and behave as most never do that makes them an effective leader in the first place.
I’ve talked about separating the wheat from the chaff in the context of leadership before, and this is exactly what I mean. It’s almost like a form of post-program stress disorder. Or cognitive dissonance.
You can take the program with you, and you should, but you’ve got to figure out who you were without the program all over again. Because removing from you what made you unique is to your detriment, not a benefit, especially in leadership.
Your ability to think and behave differently is what will make you indispensable to a company or community or organization, no matter how hard your superiors or peers try to turn you into a real-life NPC (characters in role-playing games that can only speak from pre-determined selections of dialog options, like “Hello, welcome to Calgary.”).
You empowered your team. You set them up with all the resources you could have possibly set them up with to get the job done correctly. You gave them the style guide, external links, and a brief including all the relevant keywords.
But the deliverable doesn’t meet expectations. So, naturally, you feel you have the right to come down hard on your team. “Do this, change that, why wasn’t this explained better,” and so on.
Indeed, approval is a process, and the first draft isn’t always the spitting image of perfection incarnate. Some patience is required during the editing phase.
But there is a point at which you’re crossing a line from editing and polishing into nitpicking and torturing.
I always find it funny when a client wants me to delete a comma. It would have been quicker for them to use their own time for discretionary editing.
What was supposed to be a 1,200-word post suddenly balloons into 1,500 words. All the while, the back and forth isn’t necessarily getting all the rather subjective issues resolved.
Who is the final decision maker? Once the project has reached 80% integrity, it would be in the best interest of efficiency to have a designated master editor make the final tweaks.
Everyone wants things a certain way. But no one person would ever agree on all changes and revisions. That’s why you need a designated master editor. Once the project has passed the editor’s filters, it should be considered complete.
Think about how this applies to your projects and leadership. Is there a structure missing? What is your plan?
If you’re not in the game, get out.
Don’t stay holed up in your ivory tower criticizing others. It makes you look foolish because you’re clueless about what’s going on in anyone’s life.
Don’t pretend to know what’s going on when you aren’t in the habit of talking with your people. Assumptions make an ass out of you. Period.
Don’t bark orders at people you aren’t related to, asking them to do things you aren’t willing to do.
If you’re stuck in this cycle, your leadership is superfluous. Get out. Move on. Do something else. Go somewhere where you can make a difference.
No matter the context – relationships, personal development programs, or businesses – we all feel there are certain things that are supposed to happen in certain situations. And we’re disappointed when they don’t.
But no one knows what’s going on with another, especially when there is no communication.
Some of us are busy feeling underappreciated. Some of us are waiting for the breakthrough we’re supposed to be having, getting frustrated that it’s not showing up. Some of us are feeling like we’re missing the training we require to be effective in the role we were given.
Western culture owes a great deal to assumption. We assume people know. We assume people are competent. We assume people have the same capacity or ability or skills we have.
“They’ll do fine,” we say.
And we’re surprised to find our significant others, peers, collaborators, or partners consistently missing the target when we haven’t even generated the dartboard.
“XYZ should be setting aside time to individually call everyone on the team.”
“ABC should know why I’m offended and why they should apologize to me profusely if they ever hope to be spoken to again.”
And often people don’t know. Aren’t skilled. Aren’t thinking about others. Can’t see past their own frenzied world of to-dos, assignments, calls, meetings, relationships, and circumstances.
This is not about finger pointing. It’s about recognizing that communication isn’t happening where it’s supposed to be happening.
Those who are disempowered or are wondering why things are being done a certain way when they could be done another way need to speak up.
Those who are assuming knowledge, or knowhow, or specific actions need to speak up, ask whether everyone knows what they’re doing, and if not, provide opportunities for training.
No matter what it is, you need to speak up.
Never hold onto expectations. Either share them or surrender them entirely. Otherwise, you’re premeditating resentment. You’re thinking about all the ways you’ll be mad when someone doesn’t pass a test, they were never given the study material for.
I will admit to having somewhat of a natural gifting when it came to the guitar.
But in other areas of life where I’ve created any level of “success,” it was not because I was talented or gifted.
I’ve been dedicated to my success as an entrepreneur for 12 years.
I’ve been reading and implementing personal development materials for 15 years.
I’ve been fascinated by words and the art of writing for 26 years.
I’ve applied myself consistently in each of these areas. If I’m any good at any of it, it’s only because I’ve committed myself to practice.
I’m not talented. That would be amazing. I often wonder what that’s like.
There was a price to pay to get to my humble little hill in a world filled with mountains.
I’ve tried both ways.
Improvising does leave space for others to contribute and speculate on what could be created together.
Unfortunately, a lack of direction can also become the bane of your existence. Team members may not know how to help and may not stick around if you do not lay out a clear plan with specific actions to be taken.
To be fair, I’ve still accomplished some cool things while improvising. I launched Elite Players: All Access Pass and raised over $2,000 for Sahakarini. I’m not saying there was no intention behind these projects, but I threw caution to the wind when it came to the details.
Coming prepared is a different feeling.
While showing up with a plan may not leave as much space for others to contribute and speculate on what could be created together…
It makes next actions very clear. Your team members get a better sense of where and how they can contribute. They have a better idea when the project is moving and when it’s not.
And, while I hate to admit it, I have found that team members are also more inspired to take ownership of the project and be in action when there’s clarity. They also stick around.
It may take many tries to figure out how to come prepared, however, so improvising still serves an important purpose, especially while you’re learning how to prepare.