Annie was a mess before the meeting. She anticipated the worst – a barrage of complaints and her trembling hands told their own anxiety story.
She planned her opening – she wanted to lead with a balance of empathy and authority. But when the time came, and she looked out at their stoney faces, her resolve dissolved. Words spluttered out but in no particular order. Her nervousness showed, and as a result, it took a while for people to open up. Then, when they did, it was more challenging than even she had expected. She couldn’t wait to beat her quick retreat and hide out in the loos to regroup.
This is not unusual. Many leaders delay or avoid altogether leaning into difficult situations for fear of what might happen. This lack of certainty can build into a monster that eats away at your confidence and authority.
This can show itself in all sorts of ways:
Avoiding what you perceive as tricky situations
Not giving feedback (even when it’s good!)
Making meetings a download of information
Not helping to manage the positive state of your team so they have more humps and bumps than needed – just making life difficult rather than easier.
Just letting them get on with it… hoping all will be OK.
The list is endless.
Now, we could give you a tip sheet for each eventuality, but what is at the heart of the challenge is that many leaders aren’t clear about who they are and what they stand for. Once you are armed with this knowledge, your confidence will bloom, and you will start to see your authority grow as well as the confidence in your team.
12 critical questions
So, to kick this off, here is a list of 12 questions to help you reflect on what kind of leader you want to be.
What is my leadership approach, and how does it align with my organisation’s values and mission?
Am I fostering a culture of trust, openness, and inclusivity within my team or organisation?
What legacy do I want to leave as a leader, and how am I working towards it?
How do I handle failure and setbacks, and what can I learn from these experiences?
Am I effectively balancing short-term goals with long-term vision and strategic planning?
Do I regularly seek feedback from my team, peers, and mentors, and am I open to making changes based on that feedback?
How am I investing in my own personal and professional development, and what new skills or knowledge am I acquiring?
Am I empowering and developing the potential of my team members, and am I providing opportunities for their growth?
What steps am I taking to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within my organisation?
How am I managing my work-life balance and well-being, and what changes can I make to improve it?
Do I have a clear and inspiring vision for the future of my team or organisation, and am I effectively communicating that vision to my team?
What steps am I taking to give back to the community or industry, and how am I contributing to the greater good?
Or, if you prefer 12 more creative questions to deepen your thinking, try these:
Why not discuss these questions with your peers and agree on an approach and support so that together, you grow and gain confidence in leaning into those tricky situations?