Leading Without Leading

I have been thinking about the concept of leading without leading for quite some time. I know, it sounds like an oxymoron. The truth is, I feel this is how it should be done all of the time. As you all are pretty aware, I believe leadership is not a position or title, but how we treat those around us. I believe this is the case for any “position” you may hold in your company or organization. If you are a manager, team leader, CEO, CFO, or whatever title you hold, leadership should focus on leading without leading.

Let me try and dissect my thinking for you with this concept of leading without leading. The first idea that came to mind was a military platoon. When soldiers are sent to war, they are stationed within a platoon. There is of course a designated leader within the platoon, but that doesn’t mean the other members of the platoon aren’t leaders. On a mission, each team member is a leader. They lead by way of listening, watching, protecting, and observing the surroundings of the rest of the team. Their leadership is about the protection and preservation of their team members. In other words, each one of them is leading without leading.

Another idea that I considered with the idea of leading without leading is our fine men and women within the police force. In one way or another, they are community leaders. They represent what the right side of the law should look like. I know many upstanding police officers in my community, and I see them as leaders for what is right. They lead through their interactions with the public. The majority of police officers around our country are amazing individuals with strong characters. Their leadership comes in the form of public interaction, honesty, integrity, and uprightness of character. They lead in so many ways without being in a direct role of leadership.

Finally, when I think about this concept of leading without leading, I think of the people at the bottom of the career ladder. I think of the minimum wage workers, the 9 to 5ers, the people that work the ugly hours that no one else wants to work. These are the people that have managers telling them what to do, how to do it, and hold them to expectations. These are the people that are living paycheck to paycheck in hopes of making next month’s rent. These are the ones that are just starting out in the workforce. This could be a kid in high school, or a single mom who had to go back to work in order to take care of her baby. These are the people who have leadership above them. It is these people that lead without leading the most. If you are one of these people, this one’s for you. 

The idea of leading without leading is a focus on actions over words. Anyone can get up in front of a group of people and say a lot of pretty words about leadership. However, unless the character and actions of that individual match what they say, their leadership falls dead. Leading without leading is about living a life of integrity, honesty, accountability, humility, and having uprightness of character. If you are the CEO, do your actions match your words in leadership? If you are a team leader, do you show leadership or do you only speak it? If you are one of those who works minimum wage and have started your climb up the career ladder, do you work with integrity, honor, and uprightness of character, or do you just follow the crowd?

Above all, never forget that leadership has nothing to do with titles, positions, or even how much you make. Leadership is about attitude, character, determination, and most importantly, how we treat those around us. Leadership is about standing out of the crowd, doing what is right no matter the cost, listening earnestly, learning wholeheartedly, and most importantly, loving unconditionally. I guess what I am trying to say is everyone has the opportunity and the chance of being a leader. Whether you think so or not you are always being watched and observed by outsiders. Live a life worthy of leadership and lead without leading.

When It’s Time To Quit

The other day, I was having a conversation with a colleague and the topic of knowing when to quit came up. The conversation led to some great discussion, but as I reflected on what we talked about, I felt that the conclusion that was made from our conversation works with any position at any company or organization. Because leadership is the one who sets the pace and encourages growth both professionally and personally, knowing when to quit might save yourself, others, and your team a lot of frustration and heartache.

Have you ever asked yourself how you know when it’s time to quit? This is a really great question to reflect and ponder. Many believe that one should quit when they are no longer happy. I disagree. There was something that once made you happy. Ask yourself why and what made you unhappy. How have you tried to do something new in your current situation to alleviate the unhappiness? Maybe you lost track of your mission and vision. Maybe you neglected your “Why”. Maybe you didn’t live up to expectations and feel defeated. Either way, all of these things can be reasserted and made a priority again. Unhappiness is a mindset. You just need to change your mindset. Please don’t get me wrong. There are times when someone might want to quit, but this is not about wanting to quit, it’s about knowing when to quit.

I believe the above reasons are not good reasons to quit. They just point to a need for self reflection and a change in mindset. However, I think there is one significant reason for someone to quit. The moment you start thinking you have nothing more to learn is the time you need to walk away. When someone thinks they are the best at their job, their position, their ability to lead, it’s time for them to step down, leave, or flat out quit. As John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” When you have decided you have nothing left to learn, it’s time to go.

Another way to look at this is if you are sitting in a room surrounded by other leaders and managers, and think you are the smartest person in the room, then it’s time for you to go. When a leader no longer thinks they need to learn, become better, reflect, or seek out wisdom from other leaders, then that leader will stifle the growth, passion, and ability of their company or organization to be successful. A leader should be the example for others to follow. We should want our employees and our team to grow, keep an open mind, be willing to learn, be self reflective, and never stop learning.

This post is for those in leadership who are dead set in their ways, who refuse to learn new concepts and ideas, who think they have nothing more to learn, and they think they are the smartest person in the room. This post is for all the “I” guys. The leaders that boast about themselves and their improvements and their success. This post is for leaders that refuse to collaborate, work together, and make an effort to be a part of the team. Stop hindering your company, your organization, your employees, and your team. Your effectiveness as a leader has worn off. It’s time you quit.

As a leader, never find yourself refusing to learn, grow, reflect, and change. If you do find yourself starting to be complacent and unwilling to learn, it’s time you walk away. Effective leaders are leaders who refuse to stop learning and growing. Push yourself to learn new things, try new things, collaborate with your team, and listen and learn from those you lead. Be a leader that never settles for adequate, but rather push yourself to be better each and every day. 

Leadership and Conflict

“The lack of conflict destroys companies” (Pat Lencioni). One of the most difficult aspects of leadership is conflict. However, healthy conflict can produce results and a healthier work environment. Conflict, when used properly, is something that can shed new light, new ideas, and help companies and organizations reflect on what is most important and what needs to change. How you approach conflict is what will make or break your company or organization.

Angie Morgan, former Captain in the Marine Corp., once said, “Leaders approach conflict with an eye for resolution. When handled effectively, successful confrontations raise team performance. To manage conflict effectively, you must begin by recognizing there are three sides to every story.” Conflict is not about who is right or wrong. Conflict is about coming together to understand the issue(s) and working through the problem to find a resolution. When done correctly, confrontation can create an environment that is accepting and open for dialogue. When people work in an environment that hinders or steers clear of conflict, forward momentum will eventually stop.

Conflict does not have to be verbal. Conflict, in many cases, is a silent killer within the workplace. Conflict can create deep seeded issues within an organization. When situations or issues are not talked about or discussed, walls are built among employees, management, and leadership. As a leader, it is your responsibility to seek out these conflicts with an open engagement to seek out a positive and encouraging solution. Leadership must set the expectations for the rest to follow. If conflict is not dealt with in a positive, respectful, and healthy manner, that conflict will bury your company or organization.

Something you must always remember, conflict resolution is not about WHO is right but rather WHAT is right. When resolving conflict, especially if you are part of that conflict, do NOT focus on being right. Pride comes before the fall, and when we hold onto the idea that we ARE right, our pride will get the better of us. Instead, find humility, actively and openly listen, and seek to find a common ground. Whether you are right or wrong doesn’t matter. What matters most is the preservation of the relationship.

The number one problem conflict creates is erosion and destruction of relationships. As a leader, it is essential that maintaining positive, healthy, and empowering relationships be the top priority. We tend to destroy relationships when we walk around thinking we are always right. This is why humility is so important in leadership. When there is conflict, whether you are involved or not, it is critical to remember that relationships should rise above pride. As a leader, you need to be the example in what this looks like. You need to show the importance of relationships in your company or organization. You need to express the value of listening, understanding, and humility.

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly” (Jim Rhon). When conflict arises in your company or organization, remember the power of humility. Remember that relationships are more important than who’s right or who’s wrong. As a leader, confront conflict with an attitude of humility and restoration. The goal is to learn, build, and establish a deeper, more meaningful relationship with those of whom we may have conflict. And never forget, leadership is not about titles, charts, and graphs. Leadership is about one life influencing another.

There Is No “I” In “Leader”

I came across a quote the other day from Ralph Waldo Emerson, and it went like this, “A great man is always willing to be little.” After some reflection, I realized there is so much power in that quote. When we can read that quote without getting defensive and think we have to refute such statements, it is then that we truly understand the meaning behind Emerson’s words. Being little does not mean weakness. In fact, it means quite the opposite. A great man who is always willing to be little knows the importance of humility, teamwork, and confidence. 

There is no “I” in “leader”. When leaders start to focus on their strengths, their power, their rights as a leader, then they lose the essence of true leadership. Humility is one of the most important aspects of leadership. Many hear the word “humility” and think of weakness, but it is very much the opposite of weakness. Being humble takes away the need for “I”. Humility allows the opportunity for growth, not only in ourselves, but also in our organizations, businesses, etc. Humility says, “I don’t need to be the most important person in the room.” It is willing to admit that you may not be the smartest person in the room, and that’s okay. 

A humble leader is a vulnerable leader. This is another word that people tend to think means weakness. Quite the contrary. Being vulnerable means you are willing to try new things, learn from mistakes, admit faults and failures, and, again, know you may not be the smartest person in the room. Simon Senik said it best when he said, “A leader, first and foremost, is human. Only when we have the strength to show our vulnerability can we truly lead.” Leaders aren’t meant to be superhuman, but rather the chain that brings everyone together to share in the expertise of others. A vulnerable leader is a confident leader.

One thing I truly believe in is the importance of leaders listening to experts within their team. Please understand, when I say team, I don’t mean only management. I believe a team is anyone and everyone working for or within an organization. The water boy on a football team is part of the team. Even though he may never get playing time, he is still a crucial part of the team. Every person, every employee, every member has an expertise and providing them the opportunity to share ideas and opinions allows for a better, more well rounded organization. “Soliciting the input of your team members allows you to make better decisions” (Cody Thompson). Never forget, an effective, confident leader is okay not being the smartest person in the room.

To finish this post, I want to leave you with a great quote from Pat Lencioni in his book The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues, “Great team players lack excessive ego or concerns about status. They are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek attention for their own. They share credit, emphasize team over self, and define success collectively rather than individually. It is no great surprise, then, that humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a team player.”

In everything you do, stay humble!

Get A Clue

There is a quote by Todd Whitaker that I absolutely love. It goes like this, “Everything is a result of leadership. When things go wrong, it’s the leader. When things go right, it’s the leader. Real leaders know it, acknowledge it and embrace it.” The point of this quote is to express the importance of leadership taking responsibility. The problem is, many leaders will point fingers and place blame before humbling themselves and taking responsibility as a leader. When things go wrong, don’t look at those you lead, look in the mirror.

Ownership is key in leadership. Former Navy Seal, Jocko Willink, said in his book Extreme Ownership, “On any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.” When leaders blame their team for things such as lack of success, division, poor performance, etc., they lose credibility and become an ineffective leader. Leaders who see problems and issues within their team should first look at themselves, take ownership of their faults and reflect on how they have failed their team. After all, a team is only as good as their leader, and if leadership never takes ownership, never reflects on their weaknesses and failures, and always points fingers and places blame, the team will eventually fall apart. 

If you see a mass exodus from members of your team, you might want to reconsider your effectiveness as a leader, your priorities, your actions, your attitude; you might want to take a good hard look in the mirror and reflect on what you are not doing well. “After all, there can be no leadership where there is no team” (Jocko Willink). “The leaders that are too caught up in egotistical gratification rather than the development of their people will surely fall short in the long run. There is a major difference between true leadership and authority-driven management” (Matt Mayberry). Be cognisant of what is happening around you as a leader. Pay attention to your team, actively listen to what others have to say, gather as many perspectives as possible before making decisions, and never forget, when things go wrong, look at no one else but yourself.

Too many times I have seen leaders push blame, deny responsibility, and dictate rather than lead. I have seen what it does to teams and have witnessed the damage that takes place both emotionally and mentally. I cannot express enough the importance of leaders being servants rather than dictators. When we lead through service, the focus is on others. When we lead through dictatorship, the focus is on ourselves. Egocentric leadership destroys teams and ruins organizations. Servant focused leadership bolsters teams and empowers others to become better. Egocentric leadership lacks trust. Servant focused leadership not only trusts but supports and encourages others to lead.  

Leaders, get a clue. People respect leaders who listen openly and respectively. People follow leaders who make decisions and choices based on input and perspective. People support leaders who openly support them. Take ownership of faults and failures, look in the mirror rather than point fingers and blame, sincerely reflect, actively listen, welcome multiple perspectives, and make decisions that better the team, not yourself. Lead through service. Destroy your ego before you destroy your team, company, or organization. Afterall, “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another” (John C. Maxwell).

Row The Boat

“It’s as simple as this. When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board” (Patrick Lencioni). When leadership decides to run a crew, an organization, a business, or what have you, without openly being willing to have open dialogue and conversation with those they lead, there is very little chance that those individuals will trust leadership, work for that leadership, or most importantly, be willing to get on the boat. Teamwork is not leadership telling people what to do, but rather giving people a goal and vision to believe in. Simon Sinek said it best when he said, “Great leaders give everyone something to believe in, not something to do.” 

Leadership expects teamwork, but many individuals in leadership don’t understand that teamwork also involves the leader. You see, leaders want teamwork in their organization, but few leaders are actual team players. Being a team player means you are willing to listen to the team, as a whole and individually, be willing to have difficult conversations, admit you are wrong and make a genuine effort to change their ways, actively listen to other team members by getting input from multiple perspectives, and doing what is best for the team, not what is best for you. Leaders often forget that leadership has nothing to do with a title, but how they treat the people they lead. If leaders don’t actively pursue those they lead, invite conversations and opinions to be shared in group settings, listen openly and willing, and genuinely reflect on what is said, then leaders aren’t leading; they are hindering. 

The moment leadership thinks themselves higher, more important, or better than their team, the destruction of that group and organization has started. As Patrick Lencioni said, “Ego is the ultimate killer of a team.” As I stated earlier, leadership is not about titles, it’s about how leaders treat those they lead. When leaders think their position makes them better than those on the team, they have lost all perspective of effective leadership. Humility is the antidote to ego centered leadership. “Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real” (Thomas Merton). If you find yourself saying “I” a lot in meetings, then destruction and collapse is on the way. “I” has no place in teamwork. “I” is for dictators and selfish, egocentric leaders. To change this, leaders need to start using “We” and “You”, for these are words that empower, encourage participation, and take the ego out of leadership. A team is “We”, not an “I”. 

“Of all the skills of leadership, listening is the most valuable – and one of the least understood. Most captains of industry listen only sometimes, and they remain ordinary leaders. But a few, the great ones, never stop listening. That’s how they get word before anyone else of unseen problems and opportunities” (Peter Nulty). I always circle back to listening, as I feel it is the most critical component to leadership. Listening doesn’t mean hearing, (I wrote about this in a past post, and I encourage you to read it) listening means being vulnerable. Listening also means listening to the conversation happening within your organization by those you lead. Listening means you are giving people the opportunity to share ideas, concerns, thoughts, etc. in an environment that is open and safe. It means allowing people to have conversations within the group without you needing to say anything. Leadership and listening go hand in hand. 

I titled this blog “Row The Boat” because leadership does not sit on the side expecting everyone else to row. Leadership is in the midst of the team, having those difficult conversations and providing opportunities for the team to dialogue and communicate with each other. Leadership does not tell people to row the boat, they row alongside them. However, without a clear vision and goal, rowing the boat doesn’t matter. It is the leadership’s responsibility to provide a clear vision and goal, otherwise, it doesn’t matter who rows the boat, eventually, people will stop rowing due to not having a destination to row to. If you want the boat to row, get in the boat and help the team row. If you want the team to row passionately, provide the team with a vision and goal that is clear and precise. If you want to be an effective leader, humble yourself and listen to everyone on the team. A team is only as strong as its weakest link, and leadership should not be the weakest link.

Leadership Through the Eyes of Parenthood

For this post, I want to write from the perspective of a parent. I believe there are many characteristics in parenting that flow into leadership and vice versa. Below are some thoughts on how parenthood and leadership share similar characteristics. My hope is that the leaders who read this will find value in how they might relate to their employees. And for the parents who read this, I hope you find value in how you choose to treat and raise your children. 

Children crave attention. They want to know they are loved, valued, and cared about. Children seek out their mom and dad for time. They want to hear they are doing well and doing the right thing. Children also want to find safety in mom and dad. They want to know that nothing they do will ever change the way they are loved. How much does this differ from the wants and needs of those we lead? Employees want to know they are cared about and valued. They want to know that leadership is a safe place to go to have serious, meaningful conversations. They want to see leadership take time and invest in them. Employees want to know that when they mess up, they still have an opportunity to try again.

Parents and leadership set expectations. As a parent, I set the expectation for my children; how they should act, how they should respond, how they manage their emotions and feelings, etc. Leadership sets expectations for employees in how they should act, how they should represent the company or organization, how they should deal with problems and issues, etc. Ultimately, if parents and leaders do not live by example, then don’t expect your children or employees to follow the expectations. In other words, if you are going to hold someone to a specific set of standards, you better be the first one to be held to those same standards. 

Some will say, “Children are not employees.” To that I say your are correct. But that’s not the point. Children are observers and learners of you; the same with employees. How we treat each of them will determine how successful they will be. If leadership in a company expects different expectations from their employees than they do themselves, then the trust and desire to do better will be lost. The same goes for parents. If parents expect children to act, respond, and do things a certain way, but do not follow their own expectations, then a child will have no foundation to build on. Hypocrisy destroys credibility. As leaders and parents, credibility is vitally important. 

The characteristics between leadership and parenthood are uncanny. I challenge you to reflect on how you are parenting your children. Are you investing into them? Are you leading by example? Are you holding yourself to the same expectations you are holding your children, or do you need to start holding yourself to better expectations? I ask the same questions for leadership. The most important question being, “Are you holding yourself to the same expectations you are holding your employees, or do you need to start holding yourself to better expectations? 

As always, never forget that leadership, at its core, is about how we treat one another.

The Essence of Leadership

Ronald Reagan once said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” Seth Godin states, “Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.” M.D. Arnold said, “A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them.” And finally, Johanne Wolfgang von Goeth once said, “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being.” 

If you look up types of leadership, there are many ideologies that consider what leadership looks like. Some say it is to lead from the front. Others say it is to lead from the rear. And some even say that leadership is about relationship and purpose rather than direction and action. The essence of leadership may be tricky to find. According to the dictionary, the word “essence” means, “The intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, that determines its character.” So when we talk about the essence of leadership, we are defining the indispensable quality that determines its character. 

Leadership is less about what you do, and more about how you do it. To get someone to follow instructions and meet deadlines is not necessarily leadership. However, how you get someone to do those things is very much a part of leadership. There are many “leaders” who can get someone to follow instructions and meet deadlines, but how they do that is what determines their overall ability and effectiveness as a leader. Sitting in an office and barking commands does not make for a good leader. In fact, a good leader is rarely seen in their office and can be seen among the people they lead. Rupert Murdoch once said, “If the head man in a company is not working 12 hours a day, doing things, taking risks, but also standing with his people in the trenches at the most difficult of times, then the company loses something.”

People listen and act willfully when they feel they are valued and significant. Leadership must strive to help every person feel this way. To ask something of someone without first acknowledging their value and importance is not leadership, or to give someone a task that you are unwilling to do yourself is also a lack of leadership. Leadership is about being in the trenches with those you lead. The focus should never be on being the greatest, most advanced, or even the most respected. The focus should be on helping others become leaders by working alongside them, guiding them, and ultimately providing opportunities for them to lead. When leadership gives up the need for power, the opportunities and possibilities are endless.

So, back to the original question, what is the essence of leadership? What is the indispensable quality of leadership? I believe the answer lies in how we treat each other. Just as the quotes at the beginning of this post suggest, leadership is about helping others reach their fullest potential. It’s about working alongside those you lead. It’s about understanding each person, individually, and lifting them up so that they might lead alongside you. As leaders, we must seek to build positive relationships with those we lead. We must become vulnerable and be willing to take risks to help others reach their fullest potential. We must celebrate, encourage, and provide ways for others to lead. 

Leadership is not about being the smartest person in the room. Leadership is about being the most humble person in the room. Your greatness only lies in how you treat others.

Perspective Is Everything

The other day I was sitting and thinking about everything I have been through and worked on up to where I am now. I hold every degree you can possibly have, except PhD, maybe someday, however I do hold an EdD. My goal was to be a leader, make positive changes, encourage those I lead, be the leader I always wanted, and so on. Now, after 8 long years of graduate school, a Masters in Education, an Education Specialist Degree in Administrative Leadership, and a Doctor of Education in Leadership in Administration and Teaching, here I sit, still teaching in the classroom. Many times I have had mental conversations with myself that ended with, “What was the point?”

Perspective is everything. What I thought I would be doing is being a leader in the world of education. I thought I would be helping others reach their full potential as leaders. I thought I would be encouraging people in their strengths, helping them find their purpose, and showing them that they have what it takes to be great leaders. I thought I would be writing books on leadership, attending leadership conferences, and someday be asked to speak at leadership conferences. I thought I would be helping people reach down within themselves, find courage, strength, and confidence to lead passionately, purposefully, and selflessly. 

All of that is what I thought I would be doing. You know what’s funny, I am doing that. I am a public speaker every school year. I get to encourage my students in their strengths, help them find their purpose, and show them that they have what it takes to be great leaders. I get to see my students overcome their weaknesses and struggles, rise above them all, and find confidence to be great in everything they pursue. I get to work with students who have no self-confidence, and watch them find the confidence to be great leaders. I get to help students see their potential and encourage them, walk with them, and see them succeed. I get to be the leader I always wanted to be. It has taken me awhile to see this and realize that perspective is everything.

Do I still have dreams of leading conferences, engage in speaking events, and someday see my name on the cover of a book? Absolutely. Will I get there? Well, I’m no quitter, and I never settle for okay, so yes, I will be there someday. However, I am very happy having the opportunity to lead amazing minds in my classroom every year. I am happy to invest into my colleagues, my administration, and other leaders in my district. I am happy to seek out leaders from around the world, pick their brains, learn from them, and better myself as a leader and individual. Perspective is everything!

So, when you get to the point that I was, wanting to ask yourself, “What’s the point?”, take a step back, look at where you are, what you want to be doing, and see how what you are doing might be exactly what you want to be doing, but it just looks a little different. Don’t give up on your dreams and ambitions. Don’t settle for okay. Don’t lose your passion. Just take a moment and reflect on where you are. And most of all, never forget, perspective is everything!

Are You Open To Feedback?

One of the hardest things to do is sit through a meeting listening to ideas or thoughts that you don’t agree with. It’s even harder when the feedback is directly about you. When we are criticized, we have the tendency to build up walls, cross our arms, become angry, or choose to shut people down. Not being open to criticism, no matter how hard it is to hear, closes the door to change and self improvement. Truth is, there is a chance you might miss out on something big if you are not willing to listen to criticism. The more we openly and willingly welcome and accept critical feedback, the better leader we can become.

This doesn’t mean that every critic should be heard, and every criticism is something that you should listen to. However, if we choose to allow for criticism with an open mind, listen carefully to what is being said, and determine if what is being said is valid, then we have the potential of making changes that will have positive impacts. The key is to listen with an open mind. We are not always right, and our ideas are not always the best. However, if you do your job right as a leader, you will have a room full of creative, innovative thinkers that will help you process your ideas. This means that the people you surround yourself with should not be “Yes men.” They need to have different perspectives, different training, different ideas; they need to be different from you.

Having an open mind means you are willing to hear different perspectives. I will be the first to admit that I struggle with this myself. As I continue to age and mature, I have learned the importance of listening before speaking, uncrossing my arms and being open to what others have to say, and reflect on what is being said. I still struggle, but I am definitely farther than I used to be. Changing who we are to become better can be just as painful as stubbing your toe. There are times when it hurts like the dickens, and then there are times that there is a chance you broke it. Sometimes we need to break ourselves in order to be built up better. Forcing yourself to have an open mind and accept critical feedback is one of these times. 

Something that may help you take this step is to carry a notebook to meetings or presentations. When people start to give feedback, instead of getting frustrated or offended, write down what you are being told. Reflect on what you wrote down and determine how you could best utilize the feedback you were given to make your idea, initiative, or policy better. Having an open mind means you realize that other people have great ideas too. 

Again, it doesn’t mean that every piece of feedback you receive is valid. The second part of having an open mind is to be discerning. When you write down the feedback you are given, you need to discern if what was said is of value, beneficial, or if it is someone expressing a pessimistic point of view. Real feedback and criticism looks to help you think outside the box, encourage you to look beyond your own rose colored glasses, and make you think beyond your own initiative. When you surround yourself with creative, innovative thinkers, expect someone to have additions, corrections, or thoughts to add to your ideas. That is the beauty of surrounding yourself with a creative team. 

The goal for leadership should never be the smartest person in the room or be the one with all the answers. The goal of leadership is to “help those who work under you to one day work beside you,” as Brad Lomenick says. So the next time you present an initiative, idea, or policy have an open mind to feedback. There is a chance you didn’t think of everything, and someone might provide positive insight to make your ideas even better. And instead of being at the head of the department or organization, maybe take a more teamwork approach and build up those who are under you by listening to what they have to say and consider incorporating their ideas as well.