Leadership P.A.I.N.: P is for Point Out
Updated: Nov 30, 2021
Recently I heard someone say, "If you're not experiencing pain in your leadership, you're not really leading." My reaction was to dismiss this person's idea, why? I have been taught that leaders worth their salt lead in ways that minimize pain. But I quickly recognized my paradigm was an illusion allowing me to ignore pain thinking it had no effect on me. As I reflected on over three decades of leading people it did not take long to see that pain is a constant companion.
What about you? You ever felt pain in leadership? We all have. We all will. There will be those you've invested inordinate amounts of time and energy into who walk away. The feeling of betrayal is real. Some will simply outgrow your leadership and move on. While that's not a bad thing, it does come with a certain amount of grief that must be processed. Choosing not to deal with leadership pain stunts one's ability to continue leading others at a high level.
Sam Chand's powerful book "Leadership Pain" is subtitled The Classroom for Growth for a reason. Those words remind us that pain, as bad as it may be, can become a tool for growth. The old saying, "No Pain. No Gain." is not just for athletes. Pain is only gain, however, when one chooses to take actions to step into the classroom of pain when it comes. Intentionality requires a process.
Over the next few articles, I will share my process for working through and learning from the P.A.I.N. arising as I lead. The first step is...
P = Point Out
Dr. Daniel Siegel coined the phrase, "Name it to tame it." As a leader it's easy to dismiss pain as just the cost of being in the people business. Yet, leaders often walk around in the fog of emotional pain trying to "fake it 'til they make it." Well, guess what? Leaders cannot see through the fog until you admit the fog is there. Ignoring emotional hurt doesn't make it better, it just gives it power to rule you.
I have watched great leaders fall because they refused to name the hurt, the person, or the emotions distorting their vision. Common among those fallen leaders is the desire for power. Admitting hurt and/or proclaiming the need for help is viewed as an act of powerlessness. Brene Brown describes powerlessness as "one the single worst human experiences." Maybe that's why in much leadership teaching powerlessness is either avoided or seen as something to be avoided.
Siegel's axiom, however, reminds leaders that the power to clear the fog, get victory, and grow through pain is to take the first bold step of pointing it out. Putting a name on the pain allows leaders to calmly and rationally explore how that pain is keeping them from effective leadership. Honestly, this is not always an easy task and may require the help of a counselor.
My wife and I are preparing for a significant leadership role with Uganda Assembly of God. That means we bear a responsibility to be intentional about dealing with our own stuff. Not doing so limits our ability to lead into the vision God is placing in our hearts. More importantly, it severely limits our effectiveness to build strong relationships with other leaders in Uganda and East Africa. We are determined to proactively point out those areas of our life that need work - even if it's hard.