A Strategy to Grow as a Leader


If you’ve been reading Read2Lead over the past few years you’ve tracked my decided shift into two territories you might call micro-leadership:  leading yourself and leading in dyads. They are profoundly connected.  And here are the two primary reasons why they are, and how they form a virtuous cycle: lead yourself by increasingly leading with and being led by a trusted partner.

First, the father-knows-best world has been decimated. The fallibility of cops, priests, governors, MDs, CEOs, and all other authority figures is undeniable, constantly stripped bare and broadcast, and too-often that attitude is trauma- and even death-inducing. If you have authority – as parent, manager, teacher, etc. – you must grapple with the unavoidable truth that often you don’t know better, let alone best. Titles, positional power, and others’ deference to you simply don’t confer wisdom and truth.

Of course everyone “knows” this. Indeed, nearly every person in authority not only knows it, but speaks or preaches it, too. “Know” however, belongs between those quote marks, because we know lots of things that we simultaneously undermine. I know I need sleep, for example, but don’t go to bed. Know I shouldn’t have another beer and do. Know I don’t manage details well and should delegate but don’t. Know I shouldn’t take criticism personally, but I do. Know Read2Lead gets too long yet I keep writing. Stop!

So, we must question ourself. And, here’s the kicker:  We know that, too! And, so often . . . we don’t!

Thus, point two:  a leading-partner is invaluable to checking us. They can be a sounding board to test things you think you know but just may not. They can remind you of your best self. They can remind you of core values and vision and your strategy, to keep you on track. They can tell you to go home when you are getting tired and mean and wobbly! They can wield some tools with grace, while you may be clumsy or even dangerous with those tools.

I have grown a lot in my leading and teaching and parenting capabilities over the last five years, for one main reason:  Because I have gotten better and better at letting my key partners lead me more and more and more. I start teaching a new grad school course today, and it will be better than the last because I have loosened my grip.  Loosened my grip, because just like holding a bat, club, racket, or guitar, the easier your grip . . .  the smoother your movement. It is simple in retrospect to see that I tighten my grip when I have fear or anxiety and think I must be perfect, I must do everything, others are judging me, etc.  I am letting Laura, my co-teacher teach me more and control more, especially the things that I know I don’t “know best.” Meanwhile, I can wield the tools I do wield well and wield all my tools with greater ease.

With whom and how can you loosen your grip, and let that partner in, to help you to

Lead with your best self