The more I talk to leaders the more I have come to realise that under that strong, confident, assertive, committed exterior there lies a bubbling mass of insecurity and uncertainty. Not in every case, it must said, but definitely in many.
It is also remarkable how few leaders understand and accept the situation and then do something to resolve the situation. Possibly one of the reasons for inaction is an inherent reluctance to ask for help or even that they don’t really know what to do about it.
The answer is usually to swallow foolish pride and ask someone else for their thoughts on the matter, what can be done and how best to do it.
The underlying problem is almost invariably one that has been seen before and even if it is absolutely new, which is unlikely, then a sensible discussion with someone can be enormously helpful. Again, it is curious how often the very act of talking about a problem to a trusted and trustworthy colleague who just listens can help to solve a problem.
Innately we almost always have the solution to a problem within us; we just don’t want to accept the solution that in many cases can be difficult to accept and achieve.
My years of experience chairing Vistage CEO peer groups have shown me how powerful the peer group approach can be. Members with what they consider to be an intractable problem, bring it to the group who are supportive and interested, and what is more, have probably experienced much the same thenselves.
Add to that the ability to talk to a trusted mentor on a regular one-t-one basis and the leader has a very effective support system to get over those seemingly difficult issues which plague us all from time to time.
The worst thing that the leader can do is to hold it all in and hope that it will go away. Sometimes it does but mostly it doesn’t and usually goes worse.
Professor Steve Peters in his brilliant book, The Chimp Paradox, says that during the night the Chimp brain is in the ascendant while the Human brain is asleep so when problems wake us from sleep we react emotionally. It needs some effort to box the chimp, to reassure it that everything is being sorted out and it can relax.
Even so that emotional side of our personality is very strong, said to be five times as powerful as the human or rational side and it takes some considerable effort to explain to the chimp that everything will turn out to be alright.
Certainly a very effective answer is to grasp the nettle (or bite the bullet) and talk about it to a dedicated listener or listeners. They will not be emotional about your issue and will usually give sensible and pragmatic advice often based on their experience.
Reacting emotionally to a problem can be useless and draining. Do you remember at the Tour de France in 2016 when Chris Froome crashed into a motorcycle and his bike was damaged? He started to RUN up the course until his support car arrived when he took a new bike and finished the stage.
A journalist was astonished that evening at how calm Froome was after such a traumatic event until he (Froome) pointed out that the event was over and done with. Nothing could be achieved by worrying about it so his only reaction was to think of what to do next in a positive light.
He went on to win the Tour.
If we are mentally strong enough to achieve that ourselves, congratulations. Talking it over with someone without emotion is by far the best alternative for most of us.
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