Ask yourself this simple question: What do I really want to know about my personal or leadership strengths and weaknesses? Many of us love to hear about our strengths but not our weaknesses. Yet our weaknesses impact our leadership as much as our strengths and sometimes they actually neutralize our strengths when they negatively impact relationships. On top of this, it is estimated that we overestimate our leadership abilities by about 30% and underestimate our weaknesses by 30% and that is for a healthy leader.

I wrote recently that we have an endless ability to deceive ourselves when that deception allows us to feel better about ourselves. The irony is that those we lead also help us in that deception in that they will rarely tell us what we don't want to know. In other words, they know how candid we want them to be (or not), how open we are to feedback (or not) and what issues they can press into and what issues they must leave unspoken. So the very people who know us the best conspire with us to allow us to blissfully go about our business thinking we are doing well when in fact, everyone but us knows there are issues that if addressed would make us better people and better leaders. Like the emperor with no clothes we are the only ones who don't know the truth!

Truth is an interesting concept, especially when it is about us! We are experts in manipulating truth to fit our version of what we want to think and hear and to minimize what we don't want to think or hear. This is perhaps why introspection is avoided and why we find it so hard to acknowledge our shadow side. Yet, truth is the foundation of personal freedom because the better we know ourselves, good and bad, the healthier we are personally and the healthier our leadership. Truth avoidance eventually catches up with us and can damage both ourselves and those around us.

The greatest barrier to knowing and hearing truth about ourselves is our defensiveness. The greater our defensive mechanisms the less we will understand ourselves as those mechanisms not only keep us from hearing others but from acknowledging our own stuff to ourselves. I have known unapproachable leaders who have no idea how damaging their defensive mechanisms are to their leadership. Defensiveness by definition prevents us from hearing, from receiving feedback or even from acknowledging our own inner knowledge about ourselves. It allows us to deceive ourselves. We essentially lie to ourselves!

There are things about me that I don't like. My lower nature can be very low. I don't like my shadow side. I wish I had only strengths and not weaknesses. With every passing year I am more aware of what I am not in many areas of life. That very awareness, however, is the key to growth which only comes with truth. Truth is the pain or discomfort we experience on the way to a healthier us and to healthier leadership. 

So here is the question. Do we want to conspire with others to deceive ourselves or conspire with others to become a better me and a better leader? Our invitation to others to be candid with us and our commitment to tell truth to ourselves is the key. Learning to lower our defenses and value the discomfort of truth allows others to speak into our lives and us to value introspection. 
  • Nov 27, 2011
  • Category: News
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