Any pain that remains unhealed in our hearts usually ends up getting projected onto others.
If you are in a position of influence this may mean that you abuse your authority, create unrealistic expectations, berate team members, withhold information, feel threatened by other’s success, or regularly operate in passive/aggressive mode. All of these are outward manifestations of internal disquiet.
When I describe leadership as an “inside job” or encourage leaders to “start within,” I am talking, first, about getting honest about what is unhealed and getting down to the very serious business of healing it.
Until that work is begun, even our “best and brightest” will suffer the vulnerability of insufficiency and either avoid responsibility due to a fear of failure or accept it without the humility required to be of service to those they lead.
For the better portion of my adult life I was convinced that there was a scoreboard and that I was always on the losing side.
I allowed the scoreboard to enable my perfectionism. This meant that I didn’t try things I couldn’t be great at right away; I didn’t create things for fear of criticism, comparison or being found out as a fraud.
I spent so much time staring at the scoreboard that I didn’t have any time left to look at myself. I had no idea how to do that.
And then a confluence of events created an opening for another way; a challenging professional opportunity and lots of difficult, necessary feedback put a crack in my facade, the one I had constructed to make up for my losing score.
That difficult feedback and the crack that came with it also came with an invitation for the kind of rigorous support that can repair the crack or at least contain its spread. Mentoring, counseling, friendship were made available to me in abundance for long enough that I could finally learn to mentor, counsel and befriend myself.
Here’s what I know: there was no scoreboard. There was only an adaptation to feelings of shame that led me to believe that I would not be, could not be, good enough.
But I was, and I am.
And so are you.
If you’re busy watching the score, please try to remind yourself that it’s not real; that there are good mentors, counselors and friends who will stand with you if you let them, and who will help you train your gaze on something much more worthy of your attention: your whole and healed self.
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.
Can you imagine being present on the day when a massive, shallow-rooted redwood tree came crashing to the earth, splintering into enormous jagged shards of timber?
Can you imagine the sound, the grotesque violence, the shredding and grating of the collision as one falling tree snapped over the back of one that had previously fallen?
Can you imagine one member of a silent forest slowly toppling over and remaking everything in its downward path?
Can you imagine what would happen if we collectively realized and acted upon the fact that there are people in our workplaces – in our communities and families – who feel that same kind of chaos within themselves every day?
We cannot and should not rely on our leaders alone to recognize and prevent our coworkers from struggling with significant, debilitating challenges. We can and should expect our leaders to work with us to cultivate environments where it is possible to intervene, support, protect and account for the very real human needs that every one of our teammates brings with them to the workplace each day.
Our workplaces, just like our forests, will always bear the marks of the very real challenges that occur there. Unlike our forests, however, our workplaces can and must be places where the falling are caught, loved and brought back to wholeness however possible.
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.