When someone says, “this is just how I am”, what are they actually saying? What do they mean and are we ok with such a response? It could be considered that it is a simple, all-encompassing excuse. Some might view it as a cop-out. In other words one might be saying, “I don’t have the motivation to change this aspect of myself.” Or, perhaps, one has attained some level of self-acceptance and simply knows that he or she is this way and accepts it (even if others don’t). Any and all of these explanations are fine, if there is sincerely no desire to change.
This can be chronic behavior, both positive and negative, that we think of as our unalterable essence. If we’re chronically poor at returning phone calls — whether because we’re overcommitted, we’re simply rude or we believe if people really need to talk to us they’ll call again until they get through — we mentally give ourselves a pass every time we fail to get back to callers: “Hey, that’s me. Deal with it.”
It’s easy to make a virtue of our flaws simply because flaws constitute what we think of as “me.” This is one of the toughest obstacles to making positive long-term change in our behavior. But it doesn’t need to be. That’s because it’s not about you. It’s about what other people think of you and what others need from you. But what does this mean for us as leaders? Can we simply respond to those we are leading with a simple “I am what I am?” The less you focus on your need to “be me” and the more you consider what your team or teams is/are feeling, the more it will benefit you.
We come across many leaders, in fact the majority, who turn up at work and simply behave as themselves. Surely this is a good thing you say…aren’t we all supposed to be moving toward more ‘self-acceptance’? That is what the myriad of social media influencers would offer. One would be hard pressed to find a self-help book that doesn’t advocate self-acceptance, and even loving oneself. Self-acceptance is a worthy goal but what does this mean for the modern leader?
The latest estimate is that 95% of human brain activity is adaptive unconscious…in other words we behave automatically for the majority of time. Take for example general conversation. Much of what we say is simply triggered by our current interaction tapping into our historical interactions. This is our conditioning. We have all been conditioned throughout life through our interactions with others.
It is also the understanding that everyone has the ability to choose in every minute and in every interaction. If acting out of conditioning, you are responsible for that. But if you want to begin to overcome it, to be truly whom you choose to be and need to be, you have that power. This is a critical concern for the leader. As leaders we are playing a role and that role changes based on the situation, the circumstances and who we are interacting with.
To be truly successful a leader needs to be a chameleon, to transform and behave in a way that suits the situation and to achieve the required outcome demanded from the circumstance. Situational leadership calls for us to sometimes be anything other than ourselves – confident and decisive in a crisis, compassionate and empathetic when dealing with a difficult employee, visionary and creative to get other to see the potential, ruthless and relentless when pursuing critical goals…
To begin this change one needs to become more conscious, and to act more consciously to demonstrate the required behaviors in any given situation. This is easier said than done. Everyone has a default setting which is returned to when a mindful, thoughtful, deliberate state is forgotten. As noted earlier, it is normal respond to life automatically more than it is to be deliberate. So the first step is to become more aware and deliberate. More conscious of what is required from me at this moment in the role as a leader and more deliberate in terms of how I choose to behave.
It needs to be kept in mind that the goal is progress, and it can be slow as these changes are hard won and require an intentional approach. By being more conscious of who one wants to be, one is better able, through concerted effort, to be that person and therefore that leader your team and the organization needs you to be…