I recently spent a Saturday afternoon with 600 other people from around the globe attending a 3-hour online leadership program conducted by leadership expert Seth Godin. The program included nine modules, covering topics such as culture, strategy, leadership versus management, how to enroll your followers, certain failure, and authority versus responsibility. All topics had “ah-ha moments” but the one topic that re-surfaces for me every day is “Don’t Forget Rule #6.”
Seth shared a story of a prime minister who had been reminded by one of his assistants, immediately prior to an important meeting, to always follow Rule #6: “Don’t take yourself so seriously.”
The rule, Seth explained, is not “Don’t take the problem seriously.” The rule is “Don’t take yourself so seriously.” We must be able to separate our personal, physical entities from our situations. When we allow our situations to consume our identities, we attach our happiness to a specific outcome. We are not our problems.
Truth be told, leaders place a lot on the line. Everything we are trying to build and put together is on the line every day. Every day, something is threatening to bring it all crashing down.
So, it’s easy to take yourself really seriously. It’s easy to wake up every day in a somber mood, completely lost in your own head, certain that your problems are the greatest problems a leader has ever faced. This is what happens when we lose ourselves in an external circumstance. However, there is zero evidence that taking yourself really seriously helps you solve the problem. There is no evidence that connecting our total identities to our situations equips us with what we need to drive our outcomes.
“There is no evidence that freaking out because you are about to be judged and seen as a fraud makes you do a better job of solving the problem,” says Seth.
In fact, when we face our problems from a place of distress, anxiety, and fear, we are suppressing the parts of our brains that we need for creative problem solving. When we focus on the situation/problem with some distance, rather than focusing on ourselves, we have much greater clarity because we can step outside the situation for some objective perspective.
It’s undeniable that building a business and leading others is challenging, stressful work, that stretches us way beyond our comfort zones. The goal, however is to bend us so that we grow, not break us.
One of my favorite writers, Brene Brown, explains the difference between enmeshment and empathy when we want to help others who are going through a difficult time. Enmeshment occurs when we completely immerse ourselves in a problem…when we become one with the problem. This is an unhealthy way to help. When we become enmeshed, we lose sight of where the problem ends and where we begin. We are all rolled up into one.
Empathy allows us to help at a distance. We can be most compassionate when we can remain strong & supportive. Think about this concept as it applies to you. When you have a serious challenge, are you enmeshed and consumed by it? Or can you maintain some distance, and show some self-compassion so that you can calmly navigate through it?
I personally follow a mantra when I find myself with my back against the wall: “Regardless if I come to a problem from a place of calm or chaos, I will invariably end up at the same place.” So, I intentionally choose calm. Because chaos is a complete drag.
As you build your culture, your mission, and your dream, is it necessary to violate Rule 6 in order to get there? If it is, is it worth it?
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CEO, Successful Culture
“Taking Leaders from Triage to Transformation.”