I continue to virtually discuss leadership with my assigned leadership student at Western Washington University (the BEST college in the nation BTW). His most recent question made me dig deep, and I thought I’d continue to share my thoughts on leadership. Here’s my verbatim response to his latest question.
“In your time as a leader, when have you found areas of weakness in yourself, and how did you strengthen those areas of weakness?”
Hmmm, time to get a little introspective here. Great leaders have insecurities and perceived weaknesses. That’s what makes them great leaders. They are constantly questioning themselves, asking for input and guidance. It was certainly the case for me, and continues to be so.
My personality will likely drive me to an early grave, not just because I spent 30 years in a profession that tends to shorten a life, but equally as impactful is my underlying desire to please others and help them succeed, even at my expense. It drives my wife nuts that I beat myself up, but it is what it is…
So, to answer your question directly-I am always questioning my knowledge, judgement. At times my angst “ramps up” depending on the situation, and it becomes a matter of degrees of angst. Any good leader looks first to see if he/she could have done something different whenever a situation arises that negatively impacts employees or the organization. In my new position I am responsible for investigating workplace accidents, injuries and near misses. One of the first things I realized is; Don’t find fault, find the cause. And in many cases, the cause rises to the top of the organization.
I encourage you to get hold of the book “It’s Your Ship” , written by retired Navy Captain Mike Abrashoff. The first book in a series of books on leadership, it is a short excellent read on how to “run your ship”. I bought this book for every new chief officer I promoted during my tenure, and I hope it has a lasting impact. I strengthen my weakness areas by reading as much as possible, and surrounding myself with mentors and leaders who have served or were serving- in similar management level positions. Sharing the pain can be very cathartic!
Some of the best “Pearls of Wisdom” from Capt. Abrashoff’s book that apply to your class and lesson;
– “Most obstacles that limit people’s potential are set in motion by the leader and are rooted in his or her own fears, ego needs, and unproductive habits.”
– “Helping people realize their full potential can lead to attaining goals that would be impossible to reach under command-and-control.”
– “Whether you like it or not, your people follow your example.” “You train your crew how to operate through every decision you make and every action you take.” “It’s funny how often the problem is you.”
A true leader is resolute in their core values and beliefs. At the same time, he/she is constantly questioning their effectiveness and success. It goes with the territory.
I hope this answers your questions Parker. Let me know if you need more info. Hope the quarter is going well!