Get out of your own way and lead

Those who are already great leaders know this.  They know that there are times when they are called on to be a leader where they need to take action: action without the hindrance of their own thoughts and feelings about themselves.  They are focused on the situation at hand and the outcome they seek.

When things are going well, these three things work together.. the action we take, how we feel about it and thoughts we have about ourselves and our capabilities. 

When we get stuck as leaders, often times we don’t take action because of the feelings we have, the thoughts running through our heads about ourselves, whether or not we can do it or what will happen if we don’t get it right.

We wait until

we feel the time is right,

we are ready, or

we have some control of the situation. 

Alternatively, we think of all the reasons why we can’t take action, why we are not ready or list off the things we need in order to become ready.   

And this is where many managers get stuck, and not always just for a moment. For some, it is their glass ceiling and pulls the handbrake on their entire careers.

It is a skill to be able to intentionally separate our actions from our thoughts and our feelings in real time.  Yet, surprisingly, it is something that also occurs involuntarily to all of us on occasion. When driving a car and an accident is unfolding in front of eyes, many people report a feeling of almost being out of their bodies even though they are actually part of the unfolding event. This is called, technically, a state of disassociation. Whenever a person is in a state and their thoughts and actions are not affected by their feelings then we say they are disassociated.

More practically, it is a skill with many benefits: it enables us to move out of our comfort zone, into a place of more potential; it opens up many possibilities both professionally and personally for growth, experience, recognition and satisfaction.  If we really want to grow our confidence and self esteem, then this doesn’t happen by staying in our comfort zone.  it requires us to be brave and take action, before we feel we are ready, before we think we can nail it perfectly.

That’s not to say successful leaders are impulsive and don’t take thoughtful or considered action. Really effective leaders pay attention to useful, important thoughts, they filter out less helpful ones and put aside uncomfortable feelings that could get in the way. 

By taking action, you gain more information, you gain experience, you learn and you put some skin in the game.  And, in so doing, you don’t let your own limiting thoughts about yourself or feelings of uncertainty get in the way.

By taking action, by focusing on the task at hand and not on your beliefs about yourself or what you ‘feel’ about whether or not you can do it, then the positive thoughts and positive feelings about yourself will come. 

You realise you can do it, or you learn how to do it better and your self esteem and confidence grows.  The positive feelings and thoughts come because you take action. 

But if you wait to feel good and think great thoughts before you take action you may find yourself left behind.  Be brave, step outside of your comfort zone and get out of your own way to be a leader. 

As Nike says “Just Do It”.    Act like the leader you want to become.

Cathy Taylor

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