This is part 7 of an 8-part series focusing on Marc Lesser’s latest book, Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader. If you missed part 1-6, check them out here. Before we start, please take a moment and sign up for my newsletter.
Dependence. It’s hard to even write that word. If I was going to categorize my default mode and identify an ethos that has probably been detrimental to relationships and is incredibly difficult to chip away at it would be – independence. I probably read too much Thoreau during my formative years or spent too much time alone running along the Pacific Crest Trail growing up in Big Bear. However it happened, I struggle the most with the sixth Practice of Being a Mindful Leader – Depend on Others.
We are fooling ourselves of course if we think we can be an effective leader without depending on others. The main part of being a leader is influencing others to do something. By definition, we depend on others to carry out the work. Yet, it’s so easy to think we can do it all ourselves.
Like most emotional struggles, Lesser reminds us that this inability to ask for help or even provide a space for others to give help comes down to our own fear.
That sacrifice of richness for shallowness that Lesser refers to is an acceptable trade-off if we are being intentional about it. However, I’m afraid I often don’t recognize what I’m missing because of falling into the comfortable routine of individualism and independence.
Lesser defines, “Depend on Others,” in this context of leadership as follows:
When it comes time to lead and work with a group, we use and build upon all the practices introduced so far and apply them in order to work well together. This requires a high level of self-awareness and self-confidence, as well as humility, empathy,a nd openness, or approaching situations with beginner’s mind. In many ways, I would say that mindful leadership is really the art of depending on others.Page 145
So why is it so hard? Just like each practice we’ve discussed the last few weeks, the act of depending on others comes down to our ability as a leader to make an appropriate response. Being mindful as a leader means we pause before we react and look for alignment with our intention prior to taking action.
I’m often asked, “Need any help with that?” or something related. Yet, without even thinking about it, my immediate habitual response is, “No, I’ve got it,” or “No, I’m good but will let you know if I do.” It’s similar to when someone asks us how we are doing? The habitual response is something superficial. Not only am I hoarding opportunities to perform valuable work, but I am again keeping others at a distance when our work as leaders is to bring them in. And then I’m falsely justifying it to myself by saying that I don’t want to add to anyone else’s workload.
A first step in working on this practice may be noticing that habitual response of turning down help. We can engage those on our teams or families in holding us accountable. And a second and more proactive approach could be looking at your upcoming projects or decision points and actively engaging the help of others before they even ask.
I’ve facilitated several workshops recently using Immunity to Change mapping to help my audience better understand why they struggle to ask other people in their lives for help. A key element of Immunity to Change is understanding your “Big Assumptions” and then testing them out in real life to see if those assumptions are accurate. The crippling and likely false assumptions we make around depending on others hold us back as leaders and keep us and those on our teams from better connecting with us and each other.
Alright, we are heading into the final week of our look at this book and Lesser saved my favorite principle for last. And not only is it my favorite, but it’s the principle I believe is the most valuable and difficult practice a leader can cultivate in our current world of family and work. The seventh and final practice of a mindful leader is…
Keep Making It Simpler
See you next week.