Running with Scissors

Posted March 23, 2009 in Latest News & Insights

My daughter was showing me her recent “war wounds” today.  She’s 5 and has some major scrapes on her elbow and knees from running too fast on the sidewalk and taking  a serious tumble.

I said to her “good for you honey… shows you’re living hard.”

It got me thinking that, in a way, that’s what leadership is about.  Living hard.  Getting out there…trying things…having some scrapes and then picking yourself up and moving on.

Without the war wounds, we don’t learn our limits.  I see a lot of really smart people who’ve basically been “running” through their careers… you know who you are – the fast-trackers… who’ve never actually experienced a major scraped knee.

Then, all of a sudden, they hit a major pothole.  Call it the Peter Principle or whatever you want.  You’re a superstar, you’ve always been a superstar… but now you’re scraping your knees.

One of our Mentors in our Inter-Company Mentoring program says that he lets his people run into a wall and smack their nose, but won’t let them break their teeth.  Interesting analogy.  They both sound painful to me.

But the point is, one of the most important things we all need to develop as leaders is resiliency to withstand the pain that comes along with being a leader (and, frankly, as our Mentor indicates… we have to build it up in others as well).  Call it a thick skin, tough mindedness… whatever you want.  In order to continue to increase your scope, influence and decision-making levels, you’re going to have to learn how to get up, dust yourself off and move on when life doles you out a proverbial kick in the knees.

In my opinion, two of the most crucial things you can do to build up your leadership resiliency, are to:

  1. Get a support system… Find a mentor / create a personal advisory board / group of trusted confidents (and not necessarily your workplace peers) who you can talk to about your experiences and who have the experience to know how to help you “process” what you’ve learned so that you can move forward.
  2. Increase your self-insight.  Learn as much as you can about yourself and your leadership approach.  By understanding your own inner motivations, preferences and approaches, you’ll better be able to reflect on your various leadership experiences and learn from them.  Content without context doesn’t always lead you to the right lesson.

What have you done to increase your leadership resiliency?

If you’re interested in finding a network of like-minded peers to discuss your leadership challenges with, why not consider membership with The Executive Roundtable.  We’ve waived the annual dues for members who become part of our founding community.  Visit our website before March 31 for full membership criteria and to join.

Happy leading!

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