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The Hardest Leadership Lesson

#leadership #leadershipdevelopment #leadershipeffectiveness #leadershipexcellence Jun 12, 2024

After years in a variety of professional leadership roles, and more years in training and coaching business owners and executives, there is one challenge that stands out.  The hardest leadership lesson is to let go of the need to control.

Let’s get real here. There are lessons within this lesson.

  1. You cannot always control the situation or the “stuff” that happens. You can control the way you respond to it. So, you can control your own attitude, your own behavior, and the actions you take. Pay attention to the way you respond when things don’t go your way and get better at this.
  2. You definitely cannot control other people. You may feel that you can, using fear tactics or external rewards, and that may work to some extent and for some period of time. Ultimately, however, people do things for their reasons, not yours. And you might be able to influence them, but never fully controlling their behavior and actions.
  3.  In light of lesson #2, focus your attention on building your ability to influence people. One way you can do this by better understanding your own preferred style of influence, and other styles you may not utilize as much, and how to develop both. For more information on these influence styles, see my blog post How Do You Influence Others?  
  4. Don’t be discouraged, but developing influence skills is a lifelong pursuit, so best to get started: read about influence, learn about influence, pay attention to the role models and other teachers around you, get a coach. This is a critical skill for leaders (one of the top 4).
  5. Get clear on the extent of your need for control and how it shows up. You may need to get some feedback on this, since the need for control often shows up as one of our blind spots. Some people know they are a “control freak,” others are shocked and surprised when they discover this. One of the best ways to learn about this is through a multi-rater assessment (aka a 360), from which you can learn how other people – your boss, your direct reports, your peers, and others – perceive your leadership skills and behaviors, and compare that with your own self-perception. (Let me know if you need help with getting this kind of feedback – I have a great system for this).
  6. Understand that you cannot be a successful delegator or an effective developer of people without letting go of the need to control. If you truly believe that you need to do things yourself in order for them to be done right, you will never be able to perform at the highest level of leadership. This is one of the hardest things for leaders and aspiring leaders to grasp fully.
  7. Set an intention, make a decision, create a plan, and take action. There is no better time than now to get started. And let me help you...

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