One Step Further

Crosswalk by Dani Law

This post was originally published on the Leading by DESIGN blog, Leadership Matters, which is written for alumni of LEAD 365.

Each LEAD 365 cohort goes on a retreat, and so far the feedback indicates that this retreat is a highlight for almost everyone. Honestly, it’s a highlight for Rodger, Jeff, and me as well. Last week, Rodger and I brought a cohort to our favorite retreat location (which shall remain unnamed to keep it a surprise for future cohorts). After a day of learning and experiencing, we shared our lifelines. Lifelines are always powerful, and as we debriefed with the group the next day about the power of their lifelines and how vulnerable they were, one of the participants thanked Rodger and me for setting the tone—for modeling honesty and vulnerability in sharing our own lifelines. I’m so glad that we do this kind of modeling, and, honestly, sometimes I hate it as well.

I kicked off the lifelines by sharing mine, and it was hard. Harder than it’s even been, because I am still deeply grieving my dad’s unexpected death last summer. I didn’t want to share that part of my lifeline. I didn’t want to get emotional in front of a group of people. I’m still working through all sorts of complex emotions, and I prefer to keep them buttoned up. At the same time, my dad’s death is a huge part of who I am right now and what I’m going through. If I didn’t share that raw piece of myself, how could I ask the participants to share at that level themselves?

Modeling the behavior you want to see sounds like a simple thing, but just like almost everything else we teach in LEAD 365, DOING it is the hard part. Great leaders want their people to grow. Growth is often painful, and it often involves repeatedly taking one step beyond your comfort zone. If you ask your teammates and direct reports to do this, guess what—you have to do it, too. You can’t fake taking that step past your comfort zone. You need to do it. For Rodger, Jeff, and me, this means putting ourselves out there and being uncomfortable sometimes, like when I shared my lifeline. It means having hard conversations sometimes. It means doing what is best for you even when it is uncomfortable for me. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about doing away with privacy and personal boundaries. You need to be appropriate for the setting and do what will be most helpful for the group, but too often we as leaders play it safe and stop pushing ourselves one step further than our comfort zone. You will better serve yourself, your team, and your organization if you keep putting yourself out there, keep doing the things that you don’t want to do but know are right. And in doing so, you will become a person worth following.

This week, think about the opportunities you have to push yourself—to be in that uncomfortable place of growth—and then take action. It will be hard, and it will be worth it.

All the best,

Image by Dani Law. Used under CC By 2.o license.

Posted in Leading Change, Shaping Culture and tagged , , , .


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