We see many lists on LinkedIn feeds with important leadership books for us to read. I’m sure you see the same lists and read many of the best books from this list, as I do. One of most impactful books I’ve read recently didn’t emerge from one of these lists, but my daughter, The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene’ Brown.
As a leadership and executive coach, the most significant growth I see in the people I work with are those that look within, as well as focus on the ways they can help others around them grow and mature.
Yet, after 35 years of professional and leadership development experience, I chose and benefited from this author’s work because I needed it, and my work within will never be done.
What has been your experience in life and at work?
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
The last few years I’ve used the word ‘relationship’ to describe the strength of leadership capabilities and teams. Connection not only seems more appropriate in all spheres of life, but I believe better captures the strength of relationship I have between myself and others.
The words ‘seen’, ‘heard’ and ‘valued’ are important ways to see the strength of our connection with others and give us a signal on now well that connection has developed. When I reflect, I see so many opportunities lost with people at home and at work.
Part of me defaults to the fact that I’m a guy and generally, we are so dialed into the what of work and life, unlike our spouses, who often choose relationship and connection. Nope. Not anymore. I choose results and connection to build a whole life.
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. It means cultivating the courage to be imperfect…exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength & struggle…nurturing the connection that can only happen when we believe we are enough.”
Authentic leadership seems to be all the buzz these days, but I don’t believe I’ve seen it defined in quite this way. Can I give myself permission to be imperfect, to know that struggles are mixed in with strength, and that others will still be in my corner when I display who I really am? There’s so much pressure to be the model leader, to exhibit all key competencies and not to show those we lead any of the chinks in our armor.
There’s another lesson in the concept of accepting myself for who I am – damned if I am, and damned if I’m not. There are problems with the quest for perfection, if we don’t care what other people think of us. When we block off what others think of our actions, we believe we’re immune to hurt. The reality is that we are pushing those closest to us away, thereby becoming less effective at connecting with others. Courage is claiming who we are, sharing our story, not being immune to criticism.
While I know my clients don’t expect me to be perfect, the clients I want to work with are those who accept my strengths and capabilities I have, as I do with them. This helps me to develop strong, deep connections with them.
“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance.”
For many reasons, I have always sought out the approval and acceptance of others. Not only soliciting and embracing feedback, but, connecting myself to several groups of friends and colleagues, hedging my bets. While I have always known this about myself, I am only just beginning to see the implications it has left in my wake.
We know that no one is perfect, but we long to be the best, to be chosen first, to be thought of in positive light. While striving is fine, the goal and aspiration may not be. At a point, the author helped me understand that it can become addictive because when we do experience shame, judgment and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t good enough; we aren’t perfect.
I have experienced this addictive tendency and enjoyed the bright light of success on me. Why would I ever expect it in everything I do?
“In the end, I desire a full and whole life, which can only be had through my vulnerability and gifts of courage, compassion and connection. It’s not too late.”
I’ve experienced so many positive things with the growth of our family, the accomplishments of our children, and the careers that my wife and I have lived. I’ve not only had glimpses of wonder, but incredible experiences and friendships. Unfortunately, I’ve also let far too many slide by. So many times, I was naïve, other times I didn’t have the courage, and many others I simply had excuses.
The great news? I’ve had a privileged life and have years ahead of me to change my patterns, to accept my limits and vulnerability. Imagine the life ahead as I think more about what is possible for my clients and my family?
Brene’ Brown has impacted me and helped me see reality and what is entirely possible. I look forward to learning more, and doing more, being intentional about my future path. She has more to teach me as I stumble through the next stage of disciplined practice.
Does this blog resonate with you? Have you been limiting your life and career by shielding others from the real you?
Let me close with Brene’s own words: “However afraid we are of change, the question that we must ultimately answer is this: What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think or letting go of how I feel, what I believe and who I am?”
Dan Loichinger is a highly experience executive coach, Vistage Chair and family man who continues on his journey to fulfillment, a wholehearted life and discovery. His executive coaching and development practice is based in Madison, Wisconsin.