The Humble And Curious Leader = An Effective Leader
This article comes from a place of privilege. Working for myself comes with lots of that. But entrepreneurship also requires me to be a humble and curious leader.
The reality for most people and many of my clients is they are often embedded in office politics. Speaking openly and what’s on their mind … well, it isn’t always welcomed. I am lucky because as a communication consultant (and coach) I’m required to speak openly from a place of tough love or I wouldn’t be doing my clients any favors. It’s what my clients pay me for. What’s attached to that though is I must always be aware of my ego getting ahead of itself (and stopping it if it does) and that I’m open to my curiosity.
Why am I telling you this? Because I see clients struggle with being true to what they know and riding the fine line of what may be political office suicide. I’m telling you this to let you know that the office suicide piece can be an assumption and is often a big story that’s made up. When you communicate what’s true to you and what you know, it’s more often than not, well received.
I said often … not always. Sometimes taking that leap is a gamble and you will be putting your touche on the line.
When Brene Brown (whose work I greatly admire) became well known in leadership circles, she shared her research about vulnerability and how those who speak their truth are happier. I had clients telling me they spilled everything to their colleagues and clients and that they went overboard on the vulnerability train with a few disastrous outcomes including loss of credibility. Because as Brown went on later to say, not everyone gets the privilege of hearing our stuff. She speaks to the concept of boundaries in this video clip.
There are instances when it is okay to put your vulnerable self on the line. Here’s a case in point:
I’ve been working with a client who is building a team. She is whip smart and savvy. And scared about the responsibility she now carries.
Not only for her own success but even more so for her colleagues.
She’s just leaped over a huge hurdle and the result was immediate. She had been struggling with a team member whose social and communication skills are weak. Her approach had been as a subject matter expert – one who had forgotten what it was like to be at the bottom of the curve in learning. During an executive communication coaching meeting, she told me, “I can’t believe ‘so and so’ doesn’t know better or that she doesn’t know how to do ‘this or that'”.
I asked her, “What are your colleague’s strengths? What does she bring to your team? My client told me this young woman is a data maven. There isn’t a number that passes her by that she doesn’t understand.
I then asked if her strengths outshone her weaknesses. Yes.
Is she coachable? Yes.
Over the years a number of clients have come to me because they don’t easily get social cues – they aren’t able to understand them from a place of emotion. However, they can learn them logically. And this is what I helped my client work through…how to coach her colleague to pick up on the nuances of communication.
The prodigy was often picked on for being ‘odd’ and saying things out of turn. With my client’s patient coaching she has made great strides.
The best piece is my client let her prodigy know that she will support her to grow her wings in her career. She told her so outright. Overwhelmed doesn’t describe the reaction. The prodigy hadn’t felt supported in the workplace like this ever before.
Are things perfect? Of course not. Being a humble and curious leader is not a finite end. Though it does require you to have an open mind.
One of the smartest leaders I know is my mentor. He taught me a wise lesson early in my career. Hire those who have different skills than your own, which is easier to say than do. We like to work with people who are similar to us, not those who will ruffle our feathers and cause us to move out of a comfortable place.
Humble and curious leaders hire those who are very different than ourselves. They work hard on overcoming hiring bias.
It’s hard at first but so very worth it for the strong teams this mindset creates.
To your voice,