By Jenny Taylor
Leaders often strive for perfection. It pushes them into this space of not allowing themselves to be real or face their fears or inadequacies, and it’s exhausting. Nobody is perfect, and striving for perfection is an endless game of frustration and defeat. I’ve found the more I embrace the “ugly”, the more impactful my influence can be.
So what do I mean by the “ugly”? We all have it. It's that area of weakness, selfish, ego-driven "yuck" that surfaces during our most insecure moments. I was taught to squash that stuff and hide it. Don’t EVER let anybody know your weaknesses.
Remember the saying, "Never let them see you sweat?" During my corporate days, this was the way most leaders operated. We actually referred to the experience as a real life game of survivor, just like the TV show, but instead of being out in the rugged country we were in comfortable corner offices and expensive suits. The leaders that made it to the top were the ones that learned how to survive. Survival was often at the expense of others, and it certainly didn’t allow anybody to admit their weaknesses or flaws. That approach is exhausting.
I was constantly looking over my shoulder, worried and panicked. In this world, eventually all of the yuck catches up to you. Your time card will expire. You will make the decision yourself that this isn’t for you, the company will decide it for you, or you'll live your life of always looking over your shoulder during your work week. Either way it is exhausting, and rather than focusing your influence and energy on how to help others, your completely focused inward and calculating how to survive.
As counter intuitive as it sounds, I have found freedom in the exact opposite. Identify the ugly, face it head on, and keep moving forward. In the beginning, I had a hard time identifying the yuck because I was trained to squash it. Now, anytime I experience anger, fear, self doubt, or insecurity, I lean into it rather than run from it. Sometimes it is easy to identify what is at the root of it, but sometimes not.
I've recently experienced situations with two individuals where the interactions were difficult and strained. My first instinct was to cast blame on the individuals, which wasn’t hard to do because these particular people are total energy suckers for me. I feel exhausted after our interactions. In the past, I would dismiss this and avoid contact with them which is certainly one way to deal with it, BUT that approach doesn’t help me grow as a leader. It actually paralyzes me and keeps me in the same spot. I want to grow and be an intentional leader that helps as many people as I can. In order to do that, I have to grow and learn from the more difficult people in my life.
What I identified in one of the interactions was my frustration with this particular individual was rooted in my critical eye. I felt they should be more, should be further along in their journey, and more of a leader. That puts me in the position of playing God and that is not my role. My role is to demonstrate love and compassion with no judgement. I was deep in judgement and criticism.
The other person is what I like to refer to as a “ask hole”. You know, that person in your life that constantly comes to you for advice but never applies the advice. It’s like they're going through the motions because they believe that is what they are supposed to do.
Well, again my role is NOT to worry about if the advice I give is implemented. My role is to share what I’m lead to share and leave it at that. The individual is responsible for implementing.
This isn’t always easy for me and is forcing me into a mindset of true leadership vs management. As a manager I could control what people did. As a leader I have zero control.
Once you learn how to identify your “ugly” and I really think it is as basic as when you start to feel anger, fear, any type of insecurity or entitlement take a step back, reflect and dig deep into what is causing it. You will be amazed at what is at the heart of it. Usually it has NOTHING to do with the person that sparked the feeling. It is just time, to start to address it and they happen to be the person that brought it out. As frustrating as it can be, they really are a blessing.
The next step is to intentionally avoid the comparison trap. I love this quote from Theodore Roosevelt, "Comparison is the thief of joy". Isn’t that the truth? These “ugly” moments are ripe for comparison. We are feeling vulnerable already so the next logical step is to start comparing our inadequacies to others adequacies. Whatever you do, avoid this. You weren’t made to be like other leaders. You were made to be you. Looking over your shoulder at a leader that, in your mind, is doing things better or has more talent or is more loved by their team will only spiral you into a negative head space. This is sideways energy and you can’t afford it right now.
Energy that is being wasted on things that take you off your path, make you lose focus and ultimately paralyze you is not in your best interest when you are facing the “ ugly” head on. Right now, you need to continue to push ahead and deal with the “ugly”. Don’t let comparison steal your joy or your energy.
So how in the world do you “deal” with the “ugly”?
It is actually pretty basic. You definitely need to carve out time to reflect. Not vocally reflect to others in your network, but inward, personal reflection. Other people in your network will have opinions, but their opinions are usually laced with their biases so it is very important to reflect inward versus seeking the opinions of others. It is in this reflection you will find what your core challenges are. So in the above two examples a few things surfaced. In the first example, I was deep in judgement and criticism, and in the second I was frustrated because I wanted to control this person's actions.
Now you have a choice. You can either avoid what surfaces and squash it again, OR you can admit to yourself you’ve got some “ugly” to work on. If you choose to take the path of growth, give yourself grace and start to work on it. These things don’t correct themselves overnight. Find a mentor or person that is uber good at what you're looking to improve and mirror them. Seek God’s word on the topic. The bible is rich with mentors and guidance. I LOVE the book Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud. It’s full of amazing nuggets that will help you identify what needs to go. Carve out reflection/journal time. Get comfortable with spending time with you versus processing your challenges with everybody around you.
I have found that in those quiet moments, I experience the most clarity and growth. Don’t underestimate the power of being alone and quiet. I also STRONGLY encourage a personal development practice. This is simply carving out 15-30 minutes a day to feed yourself. Be aware and intentional about what you are feeding yourself and make an effort to ensure it is information that is going to help you grow and reach your goals (reality tv doesn’t count).
Remember: you ARE unique, with special strengths and weaknesses and have a valuable and important role to play. Comparing yourself to others simply takes away from your role and diminishes what you bring to the table. You were made to SHINE and the way you shine is to continue to be okay with your imperfections. Broken boldness. In your brokenness you can be bold and influence. Your weaknesses make you real and your struggles will help others. Don’t be ashamed. Own them and work through them. In closing, noodle this quote from Ernest Hemingway, "There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self".
Jenny Taylor is the co-founders of Triple G: Give Grow Gain, an international team of leaders who's culture is focused on collaboration, integrity, and freedom.
She’s built a multi-million dollar organization, and has a unique perspective and insight on building team culture, servant leadership, balancing motherhood and career, and designing a life you love with the people you love. She lives by the idea that women are #bettertogether, and believes that collaboration and linking arms are the keys to business and life success. Jenny loves to write as a way to share her experiences in coaching people through fear and doubt, to build a successful business on their terms...with no alarm clocks! Find her on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.