Okay, time to get totally truthful. In a recent newsletter article, I quoted one of my web radio guests as saying, “Self awareness can be painful. But, it is the birthplace of self confidence.”
I went on to say that If I had to choose the one insight that had the most impact on me as a leader, it was self awareness. Very true.
But what I didn’t fess up to was that my ABSENCE of self-awareness got me into more conflict, more leg-in-mouth situations, and more unavoidable messes than there was room to write about. Frankly, some of those are almost too embarrassing to report. My only excuse would be youth. Except for the fact that up until the last few years, I was still working hard to earn the occasional labels related to “over-bearing,” “aggressive,” “opinionated,” and yes, well, even OBNOXIOUS.
This whole subject brings back a memory from first grade. My father was the local municipal judge. One day my mother got a call from a neighbor asking if she knew that I was standing on the street corner, yelling at the top of my voice. “No,” my mother replied, looking out the window. “I can see her, but I can’t hear her.” The helpful neighbor continued. “She’s terrifying the other children by telling them that her father is the judge, and everyone has to do what she says or else.”
I overheard my mother telling my father that she thought the word ‘terrifying’ was a little silly, but she did take my bike away for a day. Guess it didn’t teach me much, because although the words changed over time, the obnoxious attitude remained for a long time.
There were certain “come to Jesus” moments along the way that helped diminish the tone. Like the internship supervisor I quoted in “Leading the Way to Success,” who threatened to keep me from getting my master’s degree. “If I ever hear you being that rude to anyone, young lady, I will see to it that you never graduate from this university—or any other.” Since she was the wife of the dean, there was some clout behind the words. P.S. I did graduate, and she was the first one to congratulate me.
There were other equally harsh lessons along the way. Why harsh? Frankly, I think because that’s the only thing that got through to me. I was big, bright and brash—not a trio that invites criticism. The result was that only the super courageous (or with intimate knowledge of obnoxcity) had the wherewithal to take me on. How utterly tragic. Sometimes I wonder where I might have gone if I had been more receptive to those who tried less forcefully to give me needed feedback along the way.
So much for true confessions. Would love to hear yours. It’s not only good for the soul. It might even give others another chance to look inward at their own missed opportunites.
Until next time, think—and rethink—leadership!