You can probably think of a number of occasions when you have been asked a simple question, “What did you learn today?” It begins early in life. You trudged home from a long and arduous day at Kindergarten and your mom popped the question, “What did you learn today?” After a mistake in judgment during the tumultuous teenage years you were confronted with another iteration of the question, “What did you learn from your experience?” It’s a good question that carries forward into your life as a leader. To be sure, the best leaders are lifelong learners.
Most leaders scramble to keep up with a plethora of opportunities to learn. Students of leadership abound. It’s understandable that learning partners with development. However, the time has come to adapt the question to one of your greatest needs. Sometimes, you need to unlearn. The best leaders know when to learn and when to unlearn. It’s one of those chicken or egg dilemmas. In your daily practice of leadership, can you learn without first unlearning?
What do you need to unlearn today? Over time, self-beliefs become deeply rooted in your identity. These beliefs morph into deeply held assumptions that are seldom vocalized. They can lurk under the surface until you target them for evaluation. You can grow so comfortable with these beliefs that you seldom question the impact they have on your leadership. Every now and then, it’s important to pull up some of your assumptions, examine them and discard those that are hindering healthy growth. Start today by choosing from these three common leadership assumptions.
I cannot change. Few leaders will utter these words. But, have you ever said, “That’s just the way I am?” Whether it is a reference to your temper, your inattention to detail or conflict avoidance, it’s far too easy to justify behavior with a belief that change is not an option. You can change. It’s time to unlearn.
I cannot fail. Is failure your greatest fear? Do you attach your worth, your significance or your leadership influence to a perfect record? Does a small mistake rock your world? This belief leads to a number of behaviors that sabotage your credibility. Everyone fails. But, not every leader is authentic about success and failure. If you believe you cannot fail, you will hide your failures and forfeit opportunities for developing the leaders around you. You can fail forward. It’s time to unlearn.
I cannot succeed. How do leaders lose hope? Frequently, fear of failure leads to despair that siphons your capacity to succeed. It’s one of the most toxic cycles in leadership. When did you learn that you couldn’t succeed? Maybe a recent setback has bruised your ego and damaged your self-confidence. You can succeed. It’s time to unlearn.
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