Here it is, March 27, 2014, and here in southern New Hampshire the bitterly cold wind is once again blowing up a storm. It’s technically spring, but you wouldn’t know it by going outside, where frozen tree branches sway dangerously over tired power lines.
Though I anxiously await the first popping crocuses and daffodils, before that can happen more than a foot of snow needs to melt enough for those shoots to turn their faces toward the sun. And before that can happen, the sun needs to come out. And on and on it goes.
When I hear the word “spring,” this isn’t what I expect. Ever. My naïve expectation is that once the vernal equinox passes through, Mother Nature should begin again to grace us with her warmer, sunnier days. But things don’t always work that way.
Expectations. We all have them.
Often my coaching business provides me with the privilege to work with leaders who wish to shift from being the expert in their craft or skill, to enabling the growth and development of others. This is a situation in learning to let go—of the way they think things should be done, of a self-imposed perfectionism, and of expectations about how they believe others should perform.
This can be hard. These changes in expectations can often create messiness. But it’s in this mess that learning happens, diversity is embraced, and creativity blooms.
Making the shift from the expert to an enabling leader is hard work, work that requires time, reflection, practice, and even occasional failures. Our expectations of ourselves—especially when we are perfectionists—has a tremendous impact on the expectations we have of others, and of their expectations of us. If we are committed to growing as leaders—as enabling leaders who provide the environment and means for others’ growth and learning—then we enter into a space of learning how to change our own expectations and our expectations of others. Wheatley (2005) suggests “As leaders ensure that the organization knows itself, that it’s clear at its core, they must also learn to tolerate unprecedented levels of “messiness” at the edges… Leaders have to be prepared to support diversity, to welcome surprise, to expect invention, to rely on highly contributing employees” (p. 69).
The winds of change in the way we lead, and in the way we enable others to show up and contribute their own flavors of accomplishment, are long overdue. We, as leaders, have an important role in shifting our focus to enabling others, allowing them to flourish in their work and become leaders in their own place.
This is the soulful work of leadership.
How might you enable those around you to grow and develop, be creative, and learn to lead in their own place?
Wheatley, M. J. (2005). Finding our way: Leadership for an uncertain time. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.