Tag Archives: humility

when to not be a leader

So many of these articles are about becoming a leader, leading others, increasing potential, etc… I guess that’s the theme of this website and a theme in the jobs and lives that so many of us lead on a daily basis.

However, something I’ve recently been thinking about is when we as leaders are not actually called to be the leader of a group. It’s a weird feeling and kind of hard sometimes. Finding contentment in that different role is stretching.

I’ve played music my whole life. Having the natural leadership ability thing, I’ve often found myself leading the band, either through stage direction, recording, writing music, or planning strategies on how to grow our popularity and marketability. However, the last couple of years, I’ve been playing music in an environment where I am absolutely not the out front leader. There are very qualified, talented, and awesome people in that role – and I’ve been learning to be a supporter, an accessory, and a teammate for the group. A spoke in the wheel, if you will.

It’s been a weird feeling.

It’s different.

Humility.

I’ve had to flex.

Keep the ego in check.

Put the group before myself.

Humility again. 

At the church I attend, I’ve been involved in the music/worship ministry. My favorite role in that band is playing guitar. It’s the most enjoyable band role for me because it allows me the most creativity. But we have a lot of guitarists. Josh, the leader of our group, recently asked me what I’d like to play and contribute. I thought about it for a second and (given this recent venture around servanthood) I responded “I’ll do whatever the group needs and wherever I can be most helpful.” I wanted to put my ego in check and attempt to truly benefit our group. So I’ve been working sound and production. I’ve been playing a lot of bass. Occasional guitar. But the band has been better because of that flexibility. And it’s actually been an awful lot of fun.

The group has been better because of my flexibility and attempt at humility.

And that has been incredibly satisfying to be a part of.

I think this venture has made me a better leader. So much of my time and brainpower is invested in skill and behavioral development. Being able to not be a leader sometimes has allowed me to have more energy when I am a leader (avoid burnout). This has stretched me to grow personally, in my ability to flex, and to refine my character. It’s also provided me with additional empathy for the group environment so that I can understand how people around me feel when I am the leader. Perhaps they’ve been in a similar place before as a leader and they are just seeking to help the group.

So to my fellow leaders – how can you be leaders by not leading?

 

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how to suffer without going crazy.

A few days back I posted about the gift of putting oneself in a position to suffer (so as to learn, grow, and break through plateaus). For me, when thinking about struggle states, the next question revolves around how to get through that state of frustration and duress in a way that allows growth to occur and to get through in one piece.

humility

Suffering stinks. It doesn’t feel good and it is not supposed to. From an evolutionary biology standpoint, pain serves a very specific focus: it forces us to provide effort and attention to an area that requires improvement or to cause a condition change.

Think about a time when you were motivated to accomplish a big task, example being passing a large test. You probably felt an intrinsic stress to study, learn, cram, and get it together to win the test. This distress most likely propelled you to surpass your expectation; without it you may not have accomplished your goal.

So what are some helpful ideas and tools to remain in that state while not being bowled over by the distress? Here are some that help me:

  1. Community – I try to stay connected and avoid isolation. Let’s make it clear – I am an introvert – and big groups of people can make me tired. However, even if I can stay in communication with a couple people who can support and uplift me – or who have been in a similar place and can provide opinions or advice – this helps me to remain confident that I will grow beyond the frustration state I am in.
  2. Reflection – I make time every day to meditate or simply stop what I am doing and reflect on existence. What am I doing? Why am I doing it? What is the purpose and why does it matter? Keeping the big picture perspective in view allows me to know that my efforts can have significance and that intrinsically motivates me to push onward.
  3. Health – I choose to not allow any challenge compromise my own personal and physical health. Ensuring that I am eating well, sleeping well, and exercising allows my body to remain healthy – which allows my brain and conscience to make clear and smart decisions that support my efforts… and to hold a degree of optimism.
  4. Forgiveness – As leaders, we push ourselves to great lengths to be the best. Not being the best at something can be hard but internally berating ourselves when we’re not the best can be easy. Remember to stick it out and that your state of struggle is short-term, not permanent. Allow your max effort each day or time to be good enough for now.

struggle-state-graph

An example of my own intentional struggle can be seen in the daily cross fit classes I attend. Last year, I became bored of standard gym-type exercising and I do not have any mountains around where I live any longer (so I am not able to hike like I used to [and deeply miss]). My goal around doing cross fit was to become stronger, happier, and healthier. Two months in, I am far from my strength goals. In fact, I’m firmly in last place in most classes. I won’t lie – I genuinely hate to see myself, a person used to being successful, struggling to just finish some workouts – and my hyper-competitive internal dialogue can have relentless, shameful, and unforgiving tendencies. But then I think about the above assistance points: I am surrounded by positive people who support me in this endeavor, regardless of what place I come in. I will be stronger long-term because of the pain and ridiculous effort I have to put in every day just to get through these workouts.

My arrow is pointing up and this state is temporary. I must remember that.

Someday I will not be in last place. I might even be good… and that is when the flow state will start to show itself a bit more. I will continue to weather the storm in the temporary to enjoy the future capacity growth and other benefits. I have faith that my hard work is creating ability and will lead to some degree of success, however that may look.

A fifth point not mentioned above is also worth mentioning: gratitude and appreciation. We leaders push ourselves to meet almost-impossible success standards. Don’t just focus on future happiness, but recognize the small moments of happiness and victory during this season. Life is too short to allow a relentless drive to manifest an ever-present sense of discontent. Don’t forget to notice on the happy and wonderful things around you. I actively choose to laugh and enjoy the daily struggle of cross fit – and to embrace the opportunity I’ve been given as joyously as possible, even when it’s remarkably hard, and it keeps me going back every day.

Humility is not fun… but conscious and proactive choices can make this state of being manageable. Because of our intentional struggle, we grow, accomplish, and become more than we can imagine. We further actualize our potential and increase our capacity to be amazing.

What are some struggles you intentionally put yourself through? What things you do to make struggle states more bearable? When have you struggled to eventually overcome a plateau?

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Filed under change management, leadership, motivation, observation