I spent last week in a retreat with a group of like-minded writers. It was a wonderful week, where (in addition to dedicated quiet time to write) we were skillfully led by Jennifer Louden in illuminating conversations about what gets in the way of putting our writing out to the world and how we can find strength to cross the bridge of doubt to having courage. Inner doubt is something we’ve all had at one time or another, and it’s something that leaders need to pay particular attention to. I’m hoping you can learn from my experience.
I listened to the triumph, courage, and failures of the successful people who were a lot like me. We traveled from across the globe with different experiences and backgrounds to heal the wounds that silenced our voices. It was a humbling and powerful week.
The most personally insightful moment came when I finally began to cross that bridge from where I’d been strongly rooted for three years. You see, I stopped writing on a book because I allowed myself to listen to inner critical voices that told me I wasn’t good enough. I believed that I didn’t have something new or different to say.
Moving ahead, one step at a time
I moved forward by learning that I could embrace those critical voices and have compassion for them but I didn’t have to believe them. So I pulled out the chapters I hadn’t looked at for so long, took a deep breath, and read them through. I discovered those inner voices were wrong.
And so I started writing the next chapter. I gathered strength from others around me who had similar experiences, who had listened to their internal (and sometimes external) critics, putting a halt to any good that they might do if they stepped onto that bridge. I saw them take that first step. I welcomed their courage and their willingness to support me. My heart opened.
That’s what people are for. If you haven’t realized it yet, at some point you’ll have to admit to yourself that you just can’t lead alone. We’re hard-wired to depend on and to support others.
The bridge from doubt to courage must be crossed
It’s the bridge we all need to cross, whether we are writers or leaders. The first steps are the hardest; those that make you vulnerable, and humble, and willing to admit that you need to walk together with others.
These are the very experiences that allow us to make a difference in this world, and we need leaders who will do that.
So start crossing that bridge. Open your heart, ask for and accept other’s help. Let them know that you are human, that you can’t lead alone. Invite their opinions, ideas, and criticisms with equal enthusiasm.
What’s stopping you from taking that first step? If you open up enough to realize that leading others is just a slice of the life you’ve been meant to live along with others, you’ll make it to the other side of that bridge with grace. The world awaits your strong, courageous leadership.