Sara picked up a used set of golf clubs determined to play golf with her friends; so she just started playing. Although she enjoyed it, a year or so into golfing she recognized that she needed to some instruction on the finer points of her swing so she hired a golf pro to assist.
David had been a successful CEO for several years. He was beginning to feel stale in his ability to lead. He also noticed that he had returned to some behaviors that he had worked hard to eliminate. He’d relaxed his vigilance about how he showed up as a leader, which resulted in a resurgence of those earlier less-than flattering behaviors. He knew he needed some guidance.
Both situations are about the finer points of a craft. In both cases, there was something to be learned or re-learned. Sara stepped easily into learning to swing a golf club correctly.
Yet David was concerned about what others might think if he “went back to school”. How would it look to his executives and the employees in his organization when he admitted his fallibility and sought out the help he needed to improve his game through training, joining a peer group, or hiring a coach?
This is what it would look like:
He would demonstrate that he’s human: To be human is to be imperfect, and it’s likely that others would see his willingness to admit his shortcomings and do something to change them as admirable. The employees in his company already know he isn’t perfect, and they will know that he’s earnest in wanting to be a better leader for them. By stepping into a learning experience, he will show his humanity and that is something that others can relate to.
He would show that he’s aware that he has room to grow: Even the greatest leaders know that there is always room for self-improvement. They know there’s a gap between what they are doing today and what they need to do to assure that they lead a great tomorrow in their organizations. They seek out the resources needed to lead them through that gap. Asking for help shows humility and demonstrates a willingness to change for the better.
He would be setting a great example: It goes without saying that organizational leaders are being closely watched. So why wouldn’t David want to set a great example of what it means to be human (with all of his weaknesses) and to change (for the better)? His example may just be the kind of push other leaders in his organization need to look at themselves and decide to change themselves too.
Welcome to the human race. There is always more to learn or re-learn. Nobody is perfect, so figure out what you need to do to improve your leadership and then do it without concern about what others think. Chances are they’ll follow your lead!