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ON FEELING SAFE– Myths: “A good leader make you feel safe” “Leaders are nice to followers”

“For decades, I’ve been interested in this — because it sounds like a paradox: “Our leadership isn’t exercising any leadership.” Why do so many people feel that way about those who lead their companies or their communities? One reason is that people in positions of authority are frequently asked not to exercise their leadership. Instead of mobilizing their constituents to face tough, frustrating challenges, they are asked to protect those constituents from having to make adjustments. It’s very hard for a congressman to go to his district and say, “Good news: The Cold War is over. Time for 10,000 of you to lose your jobs.” He has been elected to his post to protect people from challenges that will require adjustments to their way of life. That’s why leadership is dangerous to those who exercises it. Sure, you have to protect people from change. But you also have to “unprotect” them. It’s dangerous to challenge people in a way that will require changes in their priorities, their values, their habits. It’s dangerous to try to persuade people to take more responsibility than they feel comfortable with. And that’s why so many leaders get marginalized, diverted, attacked, seduced. You want to be able to stir the pot without letting it boil over. You want to regulate disequilibrium, to keep people in a productive discomfort zone.” If the role of the leader is first to help people face reality and then to mobilize them to make change, then one of the questions that defines both of those tasks is this: What’s precious, and what’s expendable? Which values and operations are so central to our core that if we lose them, we lose ourselves? And which assumptions, investments, and businesses are subject to radical change? At the highest level, the work of a leader is to lead conversations about what’s essential and what’s not.” – R. Heifetz

ON CONFLICT – Myths: “Let’s agree to disagree” “You have to pick your battle”

“Conflict is dangerous: It can damage relationships. It can threaten friendships. But conflict is the primary engine of creativity and innovation. People don’t learn by staring into a mirror; people learn by encountering difference. So hand in hand with the courage to face reality comes the courage to surface and orchestrate conflicts.” Companies tend to be allergic to conflict — particularly companies that have been in operation for a long time. Being averse to conflict is understandable. Conflict is dangerous: It can damage relationships. It can threaten friendships. But conflict is the primary engine of creativity and innovation. People don’t learn by staring into a mirror; people learn by encountering difference. So hand in hand with the courage to face reality comes the courage to surface and orchestrate conflicts. Leaders of the future need to have the stomach for conflict and uncertainty — among their people and within themselves. That’s why leaders of the future need to have an experimental mind‐set. Some decisions will work, some won’t. Some projects will pay off, some won’t. But every decision and every project will teach you and your organization something about how the world is changing — and about how your company compares with its competition.” – R. Heifetz

ON BEING ENGAGED – Myth: “It’s personal”

Leadership is hard — on the people who work with leaders as well as on leaders themselves. How do leaders maintain the stamina, the energy, and the passion that they need to keep pushing ahead? To sustain yourself over the long term, you must learn how to distinguish role from self. Or, to put it more simply: You can’t take things personally. Leaders often take personally what is not personal and then misdiagnose the resistance that’s out there. Remember: It’s not you they’re after. It may look like a personal attack, it may sound like a personal attack — but it’s the issues that you represent that they’re after. Distinguishing role from self helps you maintain a diagnostic mind‐set during trying times. There’s a second point: Because we get so swept up in our professional roles, it’s hard to distinguish role from self on our own. That’s why we need partners who can help us stay analytical. And we need two different kinds of partners.
We need allies inside the organization — people who share our agenda. And we need confidants inside or outside the organization — people who can keep us from getting lost in our role.” ‐ R. Heifetz

ON EMOTIONS – Myth: “Leaders are not emotional”

“If we want greater clarity in our purpose, in order to clarify to ourselves our call to lead, vulnerability is the path. The courage to be vulnerable and to embrace emotions transforms the way we teach and the way we learn; how important ‐ especially in leadership development ‐ is modeling for learners the courage to show up and to let ourselves ‐ our cognitive as well as our emotional self ‐ be seen. Soldiering on, be brave and never give in to our emotions might mean that we resign ourselves to a life of fear and low expectations, implicitly accepting to cut ourselves off from what it means to be alive because emotions are the very things that gives purpose and meaning to our lives. When feelings are seen as a weakness and something that impairs our ability to live and learn, then there is something wrong with our ability to live and learn. The decision to give up on our emotional life out of fear that it will cost us too high, only proves that we are unable to manage our emotions and that we might have some personal growth to do; not that the endeavor itself is not worthwhile or beneficial for our life. “‐ A. Pianesi