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Four things to remember when leadership feels hard.

Leading – whether in your family, your team, community, or company – is like life: it’s hard at times.

When you decide to step up and stand for something, you open yourself up to be attacked, dismissed, criticized, silenced, and sometimes even assassinated. It is not uncommon to bear the scars from your efforts.

Leaders represent change, and with change comes loss, fear, confusion, and anger. And those brave enough to go against the crowd risk backlash. Change can make people cruel: empathy, compassion, and grace are often sacrificed when craving order. Irresponsible scapegoating of the authority figure is certainly unfair, but it comes with the territory.

Leaders are also always letting someone down. Somebody’s bound to be disappointed in decisions that are made, and stepping into leadership means shouldering the agony and aspirations of a community.

So… when leadership feels hard, here’s a few things to remember:

  1. Remember that hard comes with leadership. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would be leading. Once you understand and accept that leadership is hard, then it is no longer hard, because it no longer matters. You are on a more important mission than being comfortable.
  2. Ask yourself, “Is this a good hard or a bad hard?” Good hard means you are pursuing a worthy cause and accepting that obstacles are a predictable prerequisite. Good hard means your heart is open and you feel the pain of the people you serve. Bad hard means you have lost contact with yourself, others, and the vision.
  3. Preserve a sense of purpose. When you cannot find the inspiration and when discouragement and despair emerge (that only later are recognized as seeds of creativity) you just have to keep walking. It doesn’t have to be fast or spectaluar, but just keep stumbling forward toward the cause that you believe in.
  4. Find a life practice. To sustain your energy, every leader requires a daily practice – a habit that connects with and taps into the power of the life force that runs through us. A life practice is anything that you do over an extended period of time that consistently and reliably deepens the connection to your experience and expression of being alive.

What do you keep in mind when leadership feels hard?

What is your development plan for 2023?

As you map out your personal and leadership development plan for the coming year, it’s important to understand the difference between horizontal growth and vertical growth, between learning about leadership and true leadership development.

We live in a world of horizontal growth, a world filled with sixty second sound bites, 300-word posts (case in point), five-minute YouTube videos, twenty-minute TED talks, and audio books we listen to on the way to the office. These can be inspiring and insightful as we move “horizontally” from one insight to the next.

However, vertical growth – true leadership development – is different. Vertical growth comes from digging deeply into the layers of our character and getting to the core of who we are as a person. Vertical growth is ongoing, deep, and results in sustained self-awareness. Our culture isn’t used to digging deeply. When things get uncomfortable, we move to the next headline, the next fad, the next shiny object, or the next perspective to reinforce our viewpoint. Don’t mistake listening to an inspiring podcast with doing the deep work. Both have value and both are necessary on your authentic journey. But they are different.

You might have a plan for books to read, podcasts to listen to, or YouTube channels to subscribe to, but what will be your plan for vertical growth this year?

If you are committed to deeper vertical growth this year, check out our SAGE Forums: https://davidirvine.com/sage-forums/

12 Habits of Genuine People

Travis Bradberry recently published a Forbes article titled, 12 Habits of Genuine People. He builds a good case for the value of being genuine, then outlines the hallmarks of genuine people: “they don’t pass judgement … they’re generous … they treat everyone with respect … they aren’t motivated by material things … that aren’t driven by ego … they aren’t hypocrites.”

While these compelling virtues undoubtedly point towards authenticity, the article inspired me to think more deeply about my research and understanding of what it means to be authentic. If one holds these qualities of authenticity as the gold standard of a genuine life, we may unintentionally fall into a trap of attempting to live up to an ideal that’s humanly impossible, then become, paradoxically, inauthentic. Is anyone truly virtuous enough to be immune to hypocrisy, judgement, disrespect, the desire for material things, or ego?

If we are honest, can anyone possibly adhere to these qualities every day? And is falling short of sainthood the same as being inauthentic? And are we perpetuating a culture of complaint when our leaders fall short of these expectations?

What if, instead of being ingenuous, falling short of this near perfect standard of genuine meant being human. Being human doesn’t mean lowering our standards or becoming complacent. We can always improve. Authenticity is a commitment to staying real in our progress.

When it comes to authenticity, the notion of sincerity comes to light. The word sincere is derived from the Latin sine meaning without, and cera, meaning wax. Dishonest sculptors in ancient Rome and Greece would cover flaws in their work with wax to deceive the viewer; therefore, a sculpture “without wax” would mean honesty in its imperfection.
Authenticity, like sincerity, is honesty in its imperfection. We don’t have to hide from or be ashamed of our cracks. In the words of Leonard Cohen, “that’s how the light gets in.”

Rather than creating an illusion of perfection, being authentic means embracing our humanity. It means a commitment to bring our hypocrisy, insecurities, judgements, materialism, and ego into the light of awareness, and notice their impact so we can create safe, honest, accountable, more fully human workplaces.

Take An Emotional Temperature Reading

In a recent podcast (The Leader’s Navigator) with my daughter, Hayley, we talked about Living Authentically With Anger. To counter some of the divisiveness and strain that seems prevalent in our world today, we suggest a strategy to use with your team. Before every operational meeting, get a sentence from each person about how they are feeling. It’s a good way to stay connected, build community, and nip any tension in the bud before it turns to serious conflict. Then, if there are any concerning feelings that arise from this initial temperature reading, you can choose to bring it offline with the person individually or address it in more detail with the group. We call this an Emotional Temperature Reading (ETR).

I brought the idea of an ETR to our last team meeting. It went over great. What we discovered was that even though we are in the business of authenticity and connection, it’s easy to let the demands in our business take precedence over actually applying what we teach. It was a good experience. Spending the first ten minutes connecting with ourselves and each other before getting into the agenda lightened up the mood, brought some humanity into the meeting, helped us be real with each other, and allowed for creativity to surface.

In fact, a day after, a team member circulated this link help us in connect to our emotional side. Knowing how you feel can be tough for all of us. Here’s a helpful tool for increasing your emotional literacy. Emotional Literacy

What are you doing to connect with your emotional side? How do you check in with your team? How do stay connected with your team to ensure you stay aligned and supportive of each other?

Can Arrogance Be Mistaken For Confidence?

While arrogance and confidence appear similar on the surface, there is a definitive line that divides the two. Confidence is an intrinsic value, involving inner trust, assurance, and faith in one’s ability to deal with the situation in front them. Arrogance, on the other hand, is a false sense of superiority over others that comes from an unacknowledged lack of confidence. At its extreme, arrogance can be seen as an ego-maniac with an inferiority complex. We’ve all met them. Maybe we’ve seen one in the mirror. I know I have. And when you give this person a leadership title where they can use their positional power to show everyone how insecure they are, it never ends well.

When you are truly confident, you don’t have a need to appear superior over others.

Arrogance is a coping strategy, a learned response to feel safe and powerful when you are lacking confidence. Insecurity, self-doubt, and fear are all part of being human. But when it’s not safe to acknowledge these parts of ourselves, we learn to cope in a variety of ways. One coping strategy is to cover up our insecurity with arrogance. Another is to withdraw and quit. The authentic way is to develop the self-awareness and courage to acknowledge to ourselves when we are feeling a lack of confidence and make appropriate choices to walk bravely through what we are facing. The authentic way ultimately leads to confidence and trust – both in ourselves and in those around us.

How do you view the difference between arrogance and confidence?