Kinsley is 16…and often has greater insights into life and leadership than many adult leaders – including a certain leader I see in the mirror every morning.
Recently she gave a talk to about 20 high school girls. After she described the session to me, I realized that this was simply sound leadership development stuff for leaders at any age, women and men alike. Which is why I am open to taking leadership lessons from my daughter.
Here are some of MY takeaways from HER insights. Here are her main points, and my application of her thoughts.
Learning from Our Weaknesses – 3 Areas of Struggle
It is not news that we struggle with weakness. We really do not like them, wish we did not have them, and lament the fact that they seem to reign over us, or at best distract us from our mission. They affect our character, distort our thinking and bring tension in our relationships.
Kinsley’s leadership lessons focused on three themes that easily become areas of weakness in character, attitude and actions (or inaction, more often) because of how people process these three themes.
#1 – Guilt
We don’t choose to feelguilt or shame – but we feel it nonetheless, and it can lead to a downward spiral. Healthy guilt is expected when we violate our conscience or our moral guidelines. But Kinsley was talking about the kind of guilt (something happened or did not happen so it is my fault) that leads to shame (I, therefore, must be a bad person).
Guilt is the enemy of every leader. Whether feeling blamed and defensive for the wrongs of others, or using guilt and shame to get our way with others, guilt is destructive.
The cure? Naming reality. Working with real facts and the truth about one another allows us to engage in healthy analysis, critique and evaluation. Self-examination focused on truth leads to transformation. Self-examination focused on guilt leads to depression, anger and blame.
#2 – Drama
Ok, I know you are smiling because some of you think this is just girl-talk. But I have worked in a lot places – corporate, church and university – and drama is everywhere.
Professor X must have his way or he threatens to leave the school. Pastor Y gets angry with the Board and withdraws and pouts, because the church won’t hire his daughter to lead the music ministry (of course she is “supremely” qualified!). Manager Z meets her boss for lunch and hints that Manager A might be having an affair with Employee B (“at least that’s what I heard”) to denigrate a competitor and enhance her chances of a promotion.
Where there are people, there is drama. And where there is drama, there exists the potential for relational meltdown. Handled with care, truth and skill, drama can be diffused and relationships protected. Left to its own, unmitigated drama will produce gossip, innuendo, cliques, and manipulation at all levels of the organization.
The fix? Be diligent to model wise, drama-free relationships. Meet chaos with clarity, gossip with candor, and relational tension with mediating grace. Talk may be cheap, but a kind and direct conversation is always the first place to start. How you talk, with whom and in what environment can either stimulate or diffuse “drama.” Choice words and cooler minds can prevail.
#3 – Repeated Failure
Nothing hurts like failure, especially recurring character breakdown, errors in judgment, or besetting sins and habits. I coach leaders at all levels, and this is one area they all (WE all) are haunted by. Some just harden their hearts with a kind of “well, that’s just me “ dismissal, while others grovel in the pit of despair.
It is a question of identity – we choose to believe either “I failed” or “I am a failure.” Sounds simple. But the dance is a delicate one when the failures are frequent. The idea of never measuring up is almost too awful to bear. Maybe that is why the Bible – leadership expert Jesus speaking – reminds us to forgive others every time they fail us (or sin against us). He knew our failures would be repetitive, and that forgiveness must be our response – first time, every time. That was his pattern.
My daughter would acknowledge that forgiving ourselves is hardest. It is for me. Of course, this is just pride. I tell myself, “I am better than this, bigger than this, stronger than this!” Lying to myself is the worst form of flattery.
The Cure? Wise people through the ages recommend confession and forgiveness. Until we admit we are not always bigger, better and stronger (and grant others the same grace), we will never be healthier, humbler and freer.
You can do this…
Understanding and naming weaknesses is the heart of real growth and leadership development. Don’t let guilt get a grip on your soul, rise above the drama, and look failure in the face today. By following these leadership lessons you will thrive, and gain respect. Maybe not from everyone, but as least form the person in the mirror. That is a great place to start!
I know this is true … just ask my daughter.
QUESTION: Which of the 3 areas is most unsettling to you? What strategies or steps have you taken to address it and move forward in your leadership?