Being Imperfect Doesn't Disqualify You from Being a Leader

Photo by Jay Castor on  Unsplash

Photo by Jay Castor on Unsplash

Over the weekend, I got an unscheduled call from one of the employees at a company that I’m currently doing some consulting with. There was nothing unusual about that in itself, as I had made it clear that I was available to pretty much anyone within the organization whenever they felt the need to reach out. This particular person was calling specifically to ask for my help in getting out of “the stands” and getting back “on the court.” He had just found out that he had been turned down for a promotion that he felt he deserved. He had been doing all the right things and he just knew the formal announcement was coming, only to find out that someone else had gotten the position. Needless to say, the news had left him seriously demoralized and disappointed in himself, and he made the wise decision to seek a little outside support.

After some back and forth, it became clear that this person, whose capabilities I respect a great deal, was basically ready to give up on even trying to be a leader. He felt he had been sidelined and he sounded this close to taking his place “in the stands,” where you just talk about the game and criticize others and settle for never being able to make a difference. I knew he was better than that. More importantly, he knew he was better than that, and that is one reason that the experience took so much out of him.

In the beginning, the conversation was understandably a lot of doom and gloom and, quite frankly, I wasn’t sure if there was anything I could say to make a difference for him. But within 15 minutes, we discovered the true source of his anguish, and he was able to completely shift his mindset to getting back “on the court” like never before. Although we talked about a few topics on our short call, clearing up one very important misconception ended up being the key to him completely turning his outlook around, and that’s what I want to share in this post.

What we discovered was that he was making himself wrong for being disappointed, but to add insult to injury, since he knew better than to make himself wrong for anything, he was making himself wrong for making himself wrong! It wasn’t necessarily that he had been passed over, and not even that his initial reaction to it, but rather what he was making that reaction mean about him, that was causing him all this anguish and despair. More than anything, his disappointment in himself for being disappointed and demoralized was responsible for the downward spiral of his morale and self-esteem.

It wasn’t necessarily his boss’s opinion of him, but his opinion of himself that had him concerned. He basically said that he had previously thought of himself as a good leader, but after seeing how much being passed over for the promotion bothered him, he concluded that he must not have what it takes, because a true leader wouldn’t let such “petty” things upset them.

What I was able to have him see was that feeling disappointed or even angry did not disqualify him as a leader. On the contrary, it is completely natural to feel such emotions when you’re committed to achieving a certain goal and then you fall short; feel bad when something bad happens is exactly how it is supposed to be. We all experience negative thoughts and emotions that aren’t fully within our control, but that’s just part of what it means to be human. And if there’s one thing that I know, it’s that being an imperfect human does not disqualify you from being a leader. In fact, being human means that, even though we don’t always get to choose our thoughts or feelings, we do get to choose what we do in response to them.

Back on the call, I reminded him that, while he couldn’t be blamed for the immediate emotions that showed up, only he was responsible for the intentional actions he took as a result. Since he was quite familiar with the chapter in my book titled “Keep the Passion, Ditch the Drama,” we were able to quickly come to the conclusion that while it is ideal to identify and prevent drama when possible, the next best thing would be to acknowledge when we have entered the drama zone and work on getting back in the passion zone.

By definition, we all experience negative thoughts and emotions more than we would like, and we have all had bad days, weeks, or months. We all have different flaws that make us susceptible to these reactions, but there is one thing that is true for all of us, and it is this: There is almost nothing else that exacerbates our negative experiences quicker than thinking that we shouldn’t be experiencing them to begin with! So, some of the best advice I can give to my fellow leaders out there is, “If at all possible, don’t ‘should’ yourself.” And when you inevitably do just that, try not to make yourself wrong.

Through abundant personal experience, I have found that, without a doubt, making ourselves wrong always creates more anguish and strife than whatever it is we are making ourselves wrong about. We suffer most not from the way things are, but from the belief that they should be otherwise, and this is especially true when we believe that we should be otherwise. And as I always say, it happens to the best of us. In fact, the deeper you are into your leadership journey, the higher your expectations of yourself will become, and the easier it will be to condemn yourself fail to live up to them. But, as a leader, since your reach must always exceed your grasp, it couldn’t be any other way. Likewise, the bigger the transformation you are out to create, the more likely it is that you will find yourself falling short of being able to do just that. We have to remind ourselves that failure is part of the process, and so is feeling bad about it when it happens. And the key here is that there is nothing wrong with any of that.

If there is one thing I want to leave you with, it is this: you don’t have to be perfect to be a leader. In fact, you can’t be perfect if you want to be a leader, so there’s no point in even trying to be. Unless you have tasted defeat in that arena, and wiped the dust, sweat and blood out of your eyes, and unless you know what it feels like to fail over and over again only to get back up just one more time, you can never help others do the same. You can’t lead other human beings without being human yourself, with all the frailty and imperfection that comes along with it. So, be grateful that you aren’t the perfect leader you aspire to be, be grateful that you get to walk the path of excellence.

So, by all means, do what you can to remain proactive and positive, but when your emotions get the best of you, remember that it doesn’t mean anything. If you’re making yourself wrong, there’s nothing wrong. And if you are making yourself wrong because you’re making yourself wrong, there is still nothing wrong. Don’t use your feelings as an excuse to label yourself and take yourself out of the game, and when you end up doing just that, don’t use that as an excuse either! Instead, take the time to experience whatever is there and focus on getting back on track. One easy way to do that is to answer the three questions outlined in the chapter in my book titled “Life Lessons from a GPS,” which you can download for free right here. And, of course, don’t hesitate to reach out to those willing to support you in getting yourself out of a rut, especially when you think you “shouldn’t” have to.

Thanks for reading this post all the way through, I hope it made a difference for you! I just want to let all my followers and readers know that some big changes are coming to the blog and the website this summer. My team and I are very excited about what we have planned, and we know our community of readers and followers will be too! I can’t wait to share the news with you, so make sure you keep up with me on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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About the Author: Amir Ghannad is an international keynote speaker, author of The Transformative Leader, leadership consultant, culture transformation champion, and founder of The Ghannad Group. He has made it his life's work to guide leaders and equip them with the tools, skills, and the mindset necessary to create extraordinary workplace cultures that deliver breakthrough results. Download his free e-book, titled 5 Practical Steps to Make Your Culture Transformation Stick by clicking here.

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As always, have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary!

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