Many people believe that great leaders are simply blessed with a knack for having the right answers. They have a natural instinct for leadership because they were born with superior talents, skills, insight and charisma. These executives belong to a rarefied species of people who are able to avoid periods of doubt and confusion and are somehow able to avoid significant setbacks. In short, these people aren’t like the rest of us.
While this image may be appealing, the fact is that the reality is far more complicated.
In my experience, almost without exception, successful leaders go through stretches of time when they do feel confused, discouraged and unsure of themselves. They wonder why other executives seem to have an easier time doing their jobs. They grasp for answers and feel fundamentally alone, even as they project an air of confidence.
The difference between successful and less successful leaders depends in large part on how they deal with these periods of self-doubt. The trick lies not in avoiding these rough patches (you won’t); it lies in learning to step back, diagnose, regroup and move forward. Ninety percent of the battle is learning to take the time to ask the right questions, critical questions that help you frame key issues, diagnose problems and develop action plans for yourself and your organization. That’s how you work through adversity and get yourself and your company back on track.
There is nothing magical or overly sophisticated about these questions. They’re the questions that most of us know we should be asking, but somehow fail to ask in leading our organizations. They
help you focus you on a roadmap for what you need to do rather than some nebulous unrealistic standard of how “natural leaders” are supposed to behave.
As a leader, you don’t need to have all the answers or have superhuman traits. Instead you need to focus on asking the right questions, engaging your team and focusing on what you’re actually doing. All great leaders have moments of doubt and go through periods of struggle. Focus on having the wisdom to ask the right questions of yourself and others, and have the courage to act on what you learn.
What are your questions? Tweet me at @Robskaplan