I watched Brenè Browns excellent Netflix special “the call to courage” * and it reminded me we all go into leadership roles in our families, social group or at work for different reasons.
My first leadership role was as the eldest child in my family. I sucked as a leader. With five children under seven in our family, I rapidly got fed up with being the responsible older sister. I craved time to myself, and at every opportunity, I escaped from my siblings and left them to their own devices – much to my father’s frustration. When I was four I even left my infant brother down the bottom of our farm by himself and ran home … that strategy worked fine for me, I wasn’t sure at the time why everyone else seemed upset!
A sense of responsibility for others did eventually develop and follow me through my career. My first leadership role was mostly about ‘getting shit done’, rather than thinking too deeply about what it meant to lead others. It was a big learning curve to realise that all 12 people in the team had different ideas about what ‘shit’ needed to be done and how….. and it was up to me to find their motivations to create any synergy.
Over the years, I slowly realised what an awesome and scary privilege it is to lead others. Both leadership and coaching come with the opportunity and responsibility to enable others to be more than they currently are. A great leader or coach will imbibe others with a growing belief in themselves and will allow them to stretch their capability and do and be more.
We all have people in our lives who support us entirely as they love us unconditionally. The ‘supporters’ want to see us do well and achieve, but only if we remain safe and don’t get hurt or upset. Usually, our families and good friends fall into this category and life is great when supporters cushion us. Sometimes we have leaders who are like ‘Mum or Dad’ and support us in this way too. Some organisations even have this culture which protects everyone, however often the growth of the organisation and the people in it are stunted by this protection.
There is a more powerful group in our lives; however, who are the ‘stretchers’. They love us and want us to be the very best we can be, even if that means we must be uncomfortable, at-risk and scared. They know that on the other side of that stretch is growth, wellbeing and more excellent capability. It’s helpful to think about who in our lives fulfils that stretcher role and whether the ratio of supporters and stretchers is set up in our lives for the best possible outcomes. If we don’t have enough stretchers, we can become complacent and get used to being comfortable.
As a leader who is a stretcher of others, there is an important distinction to make about the reasons we want to stretch someone. Here are a few reasons we might want to stretch someone to grow:
1. So, we can get more done as a leader and achieve more as a team or a business
2. It’s our job to grow people and develop their capability
3. For their benefit because we love to see them at their best
4. So that we get the reward of having a great team and looking good
5. We want to harden them up for the future, so they don’t get hurt
During my career, I think I stretched people for all those reasons at times, but the reason I coach now is seeing others being their best. There is something amazing about seeing someone do things they weren’t sure they could. It’s my take on why we are all here….. to learn and support others to do the same.
Brenè is right – it takes courage to be a leader and stretch and challenge others around us. Courage takes vulnerability as we allow others to see who we are. Being who we are, means exposing why we do what we do….. at the risk of being judged by others. Understanding and caring more about our reasons for doing things, than what others think of us, is all a part of our personal growth.
So, I can see now that while I didn’t have the patience for my younger siblings to grow and learn as a child, I’ve spent a lot of my energy in life compensating, by creating acceleration for others to grow… I think it’s a basic human need to love, be loved and belong and part of belonging is supporting others around us.
Check out Brene’s Netflix special – it’s great.