A few years ago I attended a conference as I was starting up my own business. There was a speaker in a breakout session who led us through a guided experience, and it moved me to tears. In brief, those tears had to do with my perception about myself that I was superficial. The good that came out of the experience was that it led me question my values, my behavior, my thoughts, and my “being”. This was the beginning of my journey to be real.
It’s been a long and difficult road, and at some point I realized that the superficiality I observed in myself was tied quite closely to a lack of humility. A natural optimist, I was only willing to see the good in everyone – including myself. I could see that when I wasn’t open to looking at my own dark side (those pesky weaknesses and overused strengths!). I lacked depth of character, and arrogance was hovering menacingly in the foreground. I started some very hard work to change.
I can still say that I work at depth of character daily – through what I read, what I write, regular meditation, and (still working at) deep listening to myself and (more importantly) to others. I can’t claim to be humble, but I have journeyed a short distance from “superficial” to finding the real person under all that ego that kept me from accepting who I was.
Recognizing the triggers that push me over the edge into arrogance is a daily struggle. I’m getting better at it, but still fall prey.
It isn’t easy to reveal myself in this public way, so why am I telling you all of this? I’m thinking that some of my own lessons may assist you in being the most real leader you can be. It’s hard and it takes effort and time – and you never arrive. But you can work on it. Some thoughts:
Get feedback. What’s keeping you from asking others about what they see as your strengths and weaknesses? Start now.
Study, read, question. We tend to make fun of “self help”, but studying and reading about issues you personally deal with and questioning your own behavior is a good way to learn more about yourself.
Reflect, set goals, act. Reflecting on your thoughts and behavior is an under-appreciated activity, but essential for the moral actions you must take as a leader.
Recognize arrogance. What triggers arrogance in you? It’s often fear. Fear of not being the best, of competing with others, of not belonging. Recognizing what activates your ego is the first step in dealing with your fears.
Have someone hold you accountable. Who can help you? Ask them; most people want to help.
Get more feedback. Keep asking for feedback to assure that you are staying on the path.
Depth of character, humility, and being real are all part of my journey. Perhaps they should be for you too? You’ll be at your best as a leader when you are willing to take that first step. Won’t you join me?