Sometimes as leaders we are faced with an assignment that befuddles us in some way. It may be that we don't really know how to do the task. It could be that we have a lot on our plate and we can't fathom how we fit in one more item. Sometimes the problem is that there is a deadline and that can be paralyzing; other times the problem is there is no deadline and the task falls to the bottom of the pile of things we have to get done. Sometimes I don't have a single idea about how to get started, at others we have too many ideas and can't pick out one of them to focus on.
That last one is where I am today. I have a number of half-baked ideas and can't seem to get any of them to gel in a way that seems useful or even barely sensible. So I have a choice, as I do every Sunday and what I'm choosing to do about it tells something about my leadership style. I'm choosing to admit that I don't know what to do today. I'm choosing to admit that ideas don't flow from my pen to the page every time I sit down to write. In other words I'm choosing to admit that I'm human.
It seems to me that a fundamental problem with leadership is that leaders are afraid to admit that they are human. And there are good reasons for that fear. It's not irrational. There are people who will use the fact that leaders don't have all the answers against them - even the very people who appointed, elected, hired the leader will do this sometimes. And yet I believe that the fact that leaders feel the need to hide their flaws. their questions, or the fact that they don't have all the answers is one of the major reasons that leaders fail. The need to hide who we really are and that we really aren't perfect can result in leaders' unwillingness to ask questions and their inability to seek advice and counsel from people who have differing ideas. This leads to the failures we have seen in the news. On a smaller scale, it can result in workplaces that stifle rather than support creativity, in offices where it is hard to tell the hard truth and, in organizations that are miserable.
If we want to create healthy, honest, creative organizations of any kind, it is important for leaders to be forthright about their strengths and weaknesses. It is important for leaders to make it possible for people to speak the truth. Sometimes, in admitting that we are lost and confused we find a way to lead effectively, we manage to make a difference in our organizations and, as you can read here today, we find a way to complete the task before us.