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Do you ever feel like you’re constantly striving to keep up, unsure if you’re truly on the right path? This nagging sense of doubt can manifest in different ways for leaders. Some might feel pressure to always have the answers, leading to a fear of asking questions or admitting they don’t know something.

The Fear of Most Leaders

Imposter Syndrome is the top fear of leaders,[1] and I can confirm that many of my executive clients would agree. People will discover that I don’t know what I’m doing, they think. So somewhere along the way, we stop asking questions, and we start telling. We exchange data, assuming we understand one another. Even worse, when it comes to inspiring and motivating, we think if we puff out our chests and talk louder, it will make people want to follow.

If you’ve ever tried to lead a classroom of children, you’ll know that talking louder only escalates the disorder. You’ve actually got to talk quieter. It’s not uncommon for a client to meet me for a session and say, “Can we do this in fifteen minutes? I’ve got so many urgent things to do, I need to cut this session short.”

“You sound really busy,” I respond. “Would it be okay if we spent a few minutes in silence?” When I slow them down, they often respond, “That’s the quietest I’ve been in years.” And once slowed down, they realize how much more time is needed to address the unknowns they’re carrying around.

Going slower is what most people need. But it’s the fear of looking stupid that keeps most people moving so fast. I try to embrace what I don’t understand every day. I truly don’t know why my clients are in a hurry. I have a lot of assumptions about their pace, but I don’t know for sure. Sometimes they don’t either, so I slow them down.[2] When was the last time you slowed down?

Find Your Own Pace

Here are a few powerful questions for you. Whose pace are you mirroring? Many leaders feel constant pressure to keep up with someone else, leading to exhaustion. These leaders play to the crowd, living from the outside in. Reacting instead of acting. What’s worse, this multiplies within the organization. So, instead of chasing external expectations maybe you need to discover what truly matters to you and do more of that? In doing so, you’ll multiply peace and purpose. Does that sound like good news to you?

Do you know what the root word of authentic is? It’s “author.” So to lead authentically, first you need to clarify your vision for your life and leadership, guided by your personal values. This means you are actively involved in the creative process of your life and organization. What if I told you that the life you design is a life you can sustain? Burnout is when we do things we aren’t supposed to. In other words, we’re busy doing someone else’s vision and values. When we can get our vision and values right, this allows us to connect genuinely with others and find fulfillment. Even more, when others see us doing that, they’ll find the freedom to do it too. Engagement goes up. Turnover goes down.

Remember, the relentless pursuit of achievement can leave you and the people you lead feeling lost. So slow down, embrace the unknown, and rediscover what makes you unique.

This journey of self-discovery starts with clarity on your vision and values. Here are three questions to ask yourself:

1. What do you truly want to achieve in life and leadership?

2. What are your authentic thoughts, feelings, and values? 

3. If you were to get this right, how could your life and organization look different?

These are the types of questions we work through in retreat settings. Understanding these aspects of yourself empowers you to lead with purpose and authenticity. Better yet, you’ll find you don’t need to rely on volume to be heard. Instead, your genuine voice will naturally inspire and motivate others.

I’ve marked off a few dates to do retreats with you this year. At the link below, let us know some of your story, and what you’d like to work on. We look forward to hearing from you. Together, let’s move beyond the fear of “not knowing” and embrace the power of self-discovery. 

(Current retreat dates for 2024 are July 24-26, August 21-23, and September 11-13. If these dates don’t work for you, let us know what works for you and we’ll make something happen)


[2] This excerpt was taken from David’s book, Embrace What You Don’t Know: A Stupid Guide to Smart Business Leadership, pp. 26-27

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