Strong Enough to Know Your Weakness
There's a great article that I came across recently by Michael Hartsfield about the power of community in the workplace. He brought up many interesting points, and it's well worth the read, but what I really liked about it was the perspective of realizing that as leaders, we are stronger when we recognize our own weaknesses. In other words, we are better leaders, more inspiring leaders, when we realize that we need the skills and personalities of others to shore up our own weaknesses and fill in our capability gaps.
While there are many different leadership styles, at the end of the day leadership is about bringing others along, communicating in such a way that they choose to embrace your vision or mission, and obtaining their permission to lead. Ultimately, good leadership is the ability to inspire in such a way that people choose to play on your team. Hartsfield illustrates the point that an important component to developing this type of team, and becoming a leader who has permission, is building community.
So what is it about building community that results in others giving you permission to lead? In a word, humility. Leading with humility builds community by allowing for your team to see that they have areas of strength, skill or insight which can fill in the gaps for you. When members of your team realize that there is indeed a place where they fit, an area where they fill in the gaps of your weakness with a strength or skill that they possess, they are suddenly enfolded as an important component of the organization, and an essential member of the team.
Hartsfield explains, "Those who choose to lead with the power of community must humbly embrace the spirit of community that recognizes the unique strengths and weaknesses of each member. The appreciation of each other’s gifts allows the appreciation of one’s own limitations. How humbling." When every member of the team realizes that their unique skills, experiences and abilities bring an essential perspective to the project, it results in an incredible sense of community, and an appreciation of each and every member of the team. This culture, though, starts at the top, with leadership.
As the leader, you must set the tone that it's ok to admit that someone else can do something better than you. It's ok to admit that someone has more experience in a certain field or network, and their insight is potentially more valuable than your own. It's ok to illustrate to the team that good leadership is not about knowing it all, it's about knowing how to tap into the collective knowledge, which does "know it all." When your team realizes that your expectations of yourself are not so high that you must always be right, their own expectations of themselves and others will follow suit, allowing for an incredible sense of community.
Hartsfield closes the article with a powerful statement, which I will not try to improve upon when he says, "Those leaders courageous enough to inspire with humility, rather than control with power, may find community building is well worth the price."
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