As someone who helps individuals and organizations to lead better, it is not uncommon for me to ask people, “How’s your leadership-life going?” I get one of three responses.
The Overly Enthusiastic are quick to respond positively. They immediately tell me about the amazing things that they are doing and how they are “changing the world.” They often have several coaches and mentors, all of whom are transforming their lives. I am genuinely happy for these people. About half of them try to convince me to invest in something. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and sometimes it is tempting, but I know there is not a fit between us. They are fantastic and flawless, which can be entertaining to be around in small doses, but there are traces of inauthenticity. Despite their claims, they are not perfect in everything.
The Uninspired either don’t respond, ignoring the question in favor of something more comfortable, like the weather, or they lack curiosity. “I have no idea what that is?” The concept of leading is outside their realm. That’s okay; they might be fantastic individual contributors. The alarming part is when bland reactions come from established managers and leaders in an organization. They are not giving it any thought. Truthfully, it is not too shocking anymore, because it is not uncommon. Still, it is disturbing to think about the influence their position has on other people and how much energy and talent they are capable of deflating.
The Candid are the most satisfying to me. They share, “Some days are better than others,” and then cite examples. They have a firm grasp on leadership and their shortcomings or limitations. Some pause, and are taken aback by the question. They say things like, “No one has ever asked me that before,” or, “I’ve never thought of myself as a leader … but you know what, I am … or want to be.” People who fall into this group are fun. They are open to new perspectives, admit when they are mistaken and regularly seek out a better way of doing things that would work for them. They have humility and ambition, a couple of traits I find attractive in leaders.
When I ask someone how their leadership-life is going, I am referring to the area of their life concerning their leadership, their leadership activity on the whole, or the manner in which that person conducts themselves as a leader. I let people define what leadership-life means to them. It helps me learn more about their attitudes and beliefs about the art and discipline of leading, and about themselves.
So tell me, how is your leadership-life going?