“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” -Erma Bombeck
The same is true in leading and leadership. A fine line exists between being self-serving and serving of others. And yet, that line is very distinct and makes all the difference…in your leadership and in your influence.
A case in point…
“I’m perfect” and ‘imperfect”
Only a fine line and a space separate the two…a line and space that creates a world of difference, in meaning and significance. These same fine lines and spaces are often the difference makers in leadership…between a leader vs. manager, top-down vs. servant leaders, and innovation vs. status quo…
The difference between “I’m perfect” and “imperfect” is the difference of position and of influence.
Many leaders choose to draw those lines and create those spaces between themselves and those they lead. Creating spaces that separate…often referred to or seen as the ‘ivory tower’ top-down approach to leadership. This is where leadership becomes more about position and entitlement than about serving the needs and best interests of the people and the organization. It becomes about the leader drawing a line and space…a line and space that insulates them and their leadership.
When this line has been drawn, the leader no longer has a grasp on the true realities of the organization. Real-time data and knowledge is most times reserved or even withheld. In this environment, underlings often only pass on information that the leader will want to hear, creating a shield of separation from the real situations and necessary feedback vital to leading. In this insular environment, it becomes much easier for the leader to take on the “I’m perfect” persona. Leadership loses touch with reality as the only news heard, is good news and anything bad is shielded and delegated off. The leader believes they are running things in grand fashion. It becomes a facade. And leading becomes an exercise in commanding and barking orders from the tower…often at the expense of the organization and those within it. And very often at the expense of your leadership.
When we remove the lines and spaces in our leadership we are confronted with an entirely different word…“imperfect”. When we remove these lines and spaces we begin to understand that leadership is less about position and entitlement and more about understanding and relationships. When we lead under the “I’m perfect” banner understanding and relationships cannot exist, they wither away and die. Just like our season of leadership.
When we realize that we ourselves and those we serve are “imperfect”…
We approach our leadership with an entirely different perspective. It allows for serving and learning to cross those lines and fill those spaces that were once held in check under positional leadership. It allows for true, authentic influence to guide our leadership.
When leaders understand that we are all “imperfect”…
It is reflected in the way we handle problems, roadblocks and failures that come our way. We see them as opportunities to learn from, rather than problems to be shielded from or as opportunities to unload on people. When we understand that our leadership is about serving and the best interest of our people and the organization…we learn to surround ourselves with those who will give us real feedback. Not just want we want to hear. But what we need to hear. What we need to know…not just what we want to know. And that allows us to lead with real influence in the best interest of all.
Spaces and lines can divide and separate us from what’s real…and from leading in the best interest of those organizations and people we serve. Removing spaces and lines takes us out of the ivory tower and puts us at the front line of what is real. It is the difference between…“I’m perfect” and “imperfect”. It is the difference between real influence and the imaginary influence of position. It is serves as the difference between a growth and a fixed mindset. And it makes all of the difference in the world.
Don’t get lost in the ivory tower…
This is such an amazing post David! You have such an understanding of what it means to lead, certainly with both your head and your heart. I appreciate your ability to convey what I think is, by far, the most important quality in leadership… to be human. To know that you will make mistakes, you won’t have all the answers, that you will need to rely on more than yourself to get the job done. The work we do in schools takes a village and our success is dependent on how well we come together as a community.
Thanks David. I use a similar analogy with “impossible” and “I’m possible”. So much of our approach depends on how we see things. Wayne Hulley suggests that our “see” determines our “do” and our “do” determines our “get”. Excellent post on the fine balance that truly defines leadership.