The first step is admitting you have a problem.
That kind of sounds like some kind of addiction anonymous twelve step program. Well, perhaps it is. If your immediate reaction to the above is, “I’m fine.” Then keep reading because you might be blind to the problem. It often involves a leader who is rationalizing away their own failings. What are you tolerating within yourself or your organization? How are you contributing to the problem? What are you resisting changing in yourself that is getting in the way? How are you shying away from taking responsibility or exercising leadership? It is often easy for the leader to deflect their own part of the problem by blaming the people, the economy, society or something else that is outside of their control. Yet the truth is that unless we get real clear about our own issues and problems then our organizations will not change. Unintentionally we as leaders often create our own organizational problems. Call them “unintended consequences.”

In AA, step four is to take a fearless moral inventory of yourself. But let’s call it a practical way you can admit you have a problem. The sticky part is that we are often in denial. In that case you will then need to talk to those who are both in the know and have the courage to speak the truth to you in love. Some call it a 360 degree review process. That means all of those people “around” you. Your boss, your friends, your co-workers, those you supervise and perhaps others. What do they say is something you need to work on? How do you not do enough? Do too much? Get in the way? What is your specific contribution that only you can? How do you hold back? How are you afraid? Ask and listen deeply and resist denial or dismissing what is said. After all, perception is reality so listen to what people perceive about you.

Come clean with them. Own what you are willing to own and ask them to help you change by supporting your efforts. At the same time ask them to select one thing that they will be working on as well. It is unfair to be unsupportive of the leader and say “they will never change” or that you yourself do not need to change. So ask them what they will work on. Then every month or so check back and ask “how am I doing?” This is serious sobering stuff. It is a time for confession and a time for grace.

This is a growth step both for you as a leader and for those with whom you work. So are you really serious? Do you really want to improve? Then admit you have a problem. Get good data because it is so easy for one’s self to be deceived. “I’m not that bad, I’m doing a good job, it’s them…” No. Remember what Jesus says in Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’”

If we aspire to lead then we must work diligently to recognize and confess our own failings or “plank” in our own eye. We often know what to do but we are afraid of failure, of what people will think or something else and so we get stuck where we are and don’t change. Lead yourself first and admit you have a problem.

Leadership Coaching Ingredients for Growth:

  1. Start with yourself by taking a personal leadership inventory. Would you follow you?
  2. Identify those around you and invite them to give you some feedback on your strengths and challenges. (Ask them to work on something as well).
  3. Remove the “plank from your own eye.” Confession and absolution time.
  4. Check back with others periodically and ask for their continued feedback and support while supporting them in their personal developmental goals as well.
  5. Consider getting a coach to be even more intentional about living into positive change.


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Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, scottgress@me.com or scottgress.com

"Helping leaders be more productive - less controlling"

How Will You Grow as a Leader in 2017?

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