Default Leadership: The 4 Insidious Killers of Leadership – Part I


Part I of II

Have you ever wondered what keeps people from stepping out into a more pronounced leadership role? Perhaps the following example will help you see an insidious killer at work. A few weeks ago I received a phone call from a fellow minister responsible for organizing funerals. This person was looking for a staff member to conduct a funeral the following Saturday afternoon but every eligible pastor on the list was not available due to previous calendar commitments. I was the last person on the call list, yet I too declined due to a conflict in schedule. This person, who was very qualified to do a funeral, was trying so hard to farm it out. I sensed a nervous tone in her voice. During our exchange I finally challenged this person to step out of the box per se. As I sensed the subtle panic in this person’s voice I advised, “There’s a first time for everything. And at one point in my ministry – I had to step out of my comfort zone and do my first funeral. You can do it.” The assignments we are summoned to do the first time around maybe overwhelming at times since we are treading upon unfamiliar ground. For most people, the thought of making a mistake, appearing incompetent or foolish in front of a crowd can impede a potential leader. While contemplating this scenario, the four insidious killers of leadership suddenly emerged before me. All four killers begin with the letter “I”, the first one is:

1. Inadequacy – A person feels the task is too big

Most of us with extensive workplace experience have been challenged more than once to step outside our comfort zone. Many times would be leaders fail to emerge because as soon as they are asked to stretch a little the feeling of inadequacy sets in. The reason for feelings of inadequacy is the overwhelming sense of being unequal to what is required at the moment. In our limited minds we see a huge gap between what we know and the task at hand. So how do we overcome the insidious killer of inadequacy? You start by building internal capacity. Capacity is the space we create within ourselves to hold and sustain something greater. Building capacity is accomplished by perceiving and taking advantage of learning opportunities. It’s a proactive-learner who perceives an area of possibility and takes the initiative to learn about it in advance. For example, a pastor in the opening paragrah should know that funerals are part of the job description. Sooner or later he or she will be called upon to conduct one. So how should a pastor prepare? During a funeral a pastor should listen attentively, take notes, and at the appropriate time interview the presiding pastor. So when the next funeral occurs one can assume a greater leadership role. The key to enlarging internal capacity is learning at every opportunity in an effort to diminish inadequacy.

2. Insecurity – The person feels too small

In one of the episodes of the sitcom King of Queens, Carrie Heffernan is preparing to leave the office but feels uneasy going home without first finding out how her boss felt about a report she turned in earlier in the day. As Carrie carefully approached the office she carefully brings up the matter. To Carrie’s surprise her boss loved and valued her input, and asked Carrie for more. A surprised Carrie responds, “Wow, I never had my input valued before.” Insecurity is the second insidious killer for leaders. Insecurity starts when we don’t feel secure about ourselves, eventually this attitude spills into our performance. So everything we produce has a glaze of insecurity sprinkled on it. Like Carrie Heffernan, when our work comes under scrutiny we get a sense it will be shot down or returned for a rewrite. We must learn to grow out of this mental game. So how do we do it? The key is to build up confidence to a level that overcomes insecurity. Confidence occurs when a person builds trust in his or her own ability to act or perform over a course of right actions and small wins. When Carrie left her supervisor’s office she felt more secure, and confident in her ability to perform slightly better in the future. Leadership plays a key role developing staff members by making a “small person” seem a lot bigger than they actually are. Confidence increases when leaders closely monitor work performance, provide regular feedback with positive reinforcement, and celebrate small wins.

Have you ever encountered these two insidious killers of leadership in your own life? How did you overcome them?

Read Part II of this blog

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