I started this post a number of times, but was dissatisfied with it. I was trying too hard. I was trying to be clever. I was trying to be deeply intellectual. Guess what. It didn’t work.
It’s not that I’m not capable of being clever or even deeply intellectual…on a good day. But, I think today, I was just trying too hard to force myself to be those things. It happens.
When I think about this notion of trying too hard in a leadership context, a number of things come to mind. For instance, some leaders try too hard:
To be Popular
I think everyone, to a greater or lesser extent, likes to be liked. But, trying too hard to be popular gets in the way of our ability to make tough decisions and to lead in a judicious way. In my experience, people respect and respond well to those leaders who are fair much more than those who focus on being popular.
To be Perfect
Those who strive for perfection can also have a tendency to micro-manage everything to death to avoid making any mistakes. Of course the trouble is that, in so doing, they manage to annoy most everyone who works with them, or for them. While it is admirable to want to do things well, it is not possible to get everything right all of the time. It’s just not.
To be All-Knowing & All-wise
Leadership does not come with all the answers. It’s too bad, but there it is. If we try too hard to create the impression that we are the font of all knowledge, we are bound to disappoint.
To be Strong
To some people, a leader should always be strong and impervious to the problems and worries that afflict other mortals. While it is true that leadership asks us to bring our courage to work, it does not mean that we cannot share our concerns with others. As individuals, trying too hard to be strong, places a great and unnecessary burden on us. As leaders, it also excludes the possibility that others are willing and quite capable of helping.
So, how do we avoid the problem of trying too hard? Well, here are some thoughts about that:
1. Know and Accept ourselves, warts ‘n all
I think having a good handle on what we’re good at and what we’re not good at, is a place to start. It doesn’t mean that we should stop learning, growing and improving…not at all. But having a certain confidence about who and how we are, somehow gives us permission to take the focus off ourselves and onto others without having to try so hard.
2. Embrace the Imperfect
I struggle with this one all the time but I keep working on it because when I strive for perfection, I invariably achieve only frustration.
3. Look and Listen More… Talk Less
I think, when we try too hard, there is a tendency to talk far too much. Whatever the reason for this, while we are doing it, we are undoubtedly missing the opportunity to observe and listen to others. Incorporating the thoughts and ideas of others takes the pressure off us to have the right answers all of the time.
4. Dare to be Vulnerable
This is about allowing our humanness to come through and striving to place more value on the giving and receiving of empathy. I think human beings are stronger when they allow each other a glimpse into what matters to them. Trying too hard to be strong and stand apart from the rest leads not to strength but to isolation
5. Lighten Up
Sometimes you just have to laugh. When we’re trying too hard, it’s entirely possible that we’re also being way too serious about it all. Laughing at ourselves can take the pressure and worry out of most situations. So, wherever you go, take your sense of humour with you. It will serve you well.
So, that’s what I think about trying too hard. What do you think?