That Was Awkward – Leading

This post is part of the series – That Was Awkward
That Was Awkward – Decision-Making
That Was Awkward – Leading

Our culture is all about image. Many employees value recognition and affirmation. Others are content to “fly under the radar” to avoid any chance of negative attention from a supervisor.

And this approach is quite logical for some…

…unless you want to lead.

At the very core of leadership is change – after all, what are you leading people to do? To be?

Effective leaders place the success of others, the team, and the organization above their own well-being. Often at great personal cost.

They do so because, along the way, they figured out, that serving others is worth it. But it’s uncomfortable.

If you’re going to lead – there are going to be awkward moments. Not just some of the time – most of the time. And it will be worth it!

In my office I have an awkward shelf. Lining the shelf are scores of notes, cards, emails, small gifts, and letters from people all over the world. Notes of appreciation, gratefulness, support, and encouragement. They’re all there.

Each one represents significant life change. People with whom I’ve connected in some small way along their journey.

Occasionally, when I’m going through a particularly awkward moment, I’ll grab a handful of these notes and read through them. It only takes a few minutes to remember why I do what I do. And I love it.

Though there have been countless awkward moments, many of these thoughtful notes and gifts were born in the most uncomfortable of times. And I’m reminded – it’s worth it!

Here are 3 things that I’ve learned about leading through awkward moments:

1. Be authentic

Have you ever been the junior administrator in the room? Did you work hard to fit in? To look like an administrator, act like an administrator, be an administrator? How did that go?

The truth is, if you’re in a leadership role, your colleagues have probably never asked you to try harder to act more like a leader. They simply want you to be you!

I’ve found that authenticity doesn’t undermine leadership. It complements it. People see through my imperfect words when they see my heart. So I am intentionally transparent.

There’s an old adage – If you is who you ain’t, then you ain’t who you is. Authentic leaders have the courage to reveal who they are and who they aren’t.

When we hide who we are, it’s generally because we’re trying to be all things to all people. And when we try to be all things to all people, we’re trying to be God.

If I had to choose – I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.

2. Get uncomfortable

Leaders of growing organizations regularly do things that make people feel uncomfortable. I know that doesn’t seem very kind, so let me explain – comfort impedes growth. Any attempt to maintain a comfortable environment will produce immature team members and an unhealthy organization.

Awkwardness is a catalyst for exponential growth. So I never want to get to the place in my life and work that I am unwilling to appear foolish to some.

We should be doing things that feel awkward. At first, some will think we’ve lost our collective mind – but we can embrace the opportunity to swallow our pride. When we do, that one small step becomes our ticket to a healthy destiny.

3. Be desperate

Many organizations are all about protocol. Education is about protocol. Religion is about protocol.

But intentional leadership is about desperation. A desperation for living with purpose. A desperation for a huge, compelling vision. A desperation for specific plans to accomplish the vision. A desperation for effectively managing priorities and decisions. A fanatical desperation for developing people. A desperation that goes WAY out on a limb for the team and for the organization. A desperation that gives everything for others.

Desperate people take desperate measures.

Awkwardness is often the only thing that stands between you and your miracle. And once we experience the miracle, we will crave the awkwardness. Those moments of discomfort become defining moments.

So, we can lose the alter ego and step into an incredible destiny by risking embarrassment. Kick mediocrity to the curb. It’s time to get foolish.

How do you deal with uncomfortable leadership? Share in the comments.

Michael Nichols

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “That Was Awkward – Leading

  1. I love your idea of the “awkward shelf.” I can see it being a great motivator when you’re not feeling up to the task and think that it’s just too out there.

    • It is, Joe. Reviewing the notes reminds you (no matter how challenging your current circumstances) that your team members are on board, they’ve bought in, and they’re pulling together with you. It’s energizing and enlivening.

      Thanks, my friend!