Deepak and me, we go way back! Okay, maybe NOT. Other than seeing him across the room while he gave a conference speech long ago, I’ve never met the man.
But, early in the morning at the Beverly Hilton recently, just the two of us were waiting to be served by the baristas.
So, I struck up a conversation with the man with the glitzy glasses. I was writing this blog post based upon a question Gestalt psychotherapist Fritz Perls once asked, “How is it possible to be unattached to the outcome, fully in the moment, and yet have a clear agenda?” Not the normal question Deepak contends with when he’s undercover in the coffee line.
I told him that one of my challenges throughout my life as a leader has been to be present and focused on doing the right things but also fixated on getting the results I’m looking for. Deepak’s soulful eyes told me a lot. I felt like I was asking him a question he needed to ask himself, being the mindful striver that he is. To be honest, I didn’t get much from him other than feeling his presence. Maybe he needed his jolt of joe.
So, I went for a walk and pondered this Fritz Perls question by myself, especially important in light of how I lead MEA as the imperfect CEO.
It is hard to have multiple leadership intentions without feeling or looking like a scattered doofus. I want to empower my team while, at the same time, optimizing our best results, which often means I believe “father knows best” (and I’m the father). As the father, it’s easy to miss the power dynamics with my team if they’re always feeling like I might swoop in. After clearing my head on the walk, I came back to my laptop and jotted down these four questions that helped me to see how I can be better at both empowering people and maximizing results:
1. What assumptions am I holding about my role as a leader?
2. How do my assumptions get in the way of empowering others?
3. What if my team knows better than me, and how could I create the conditions for that to happen?
4. How can I give space for small failures that build wisdom and, in the long run, make us stronger?
If there’s one key lesson I’ve learned from this thought exercise, it is this: The best thing I can do is to be authentic as a leader and a human and let those around me know about the cognitive dissonance I occasionally feel between wanting to empower others and feeling safest when I do it myself.
As always, my colleagues guide me to becoming a better leader.