I am humble, fallible … and I LEAD

I am humble, fallible and I get things wrong, I don’t always know the answer, I am enough and I LEAD

This blog is about some of the profound learning I have experienced in my leadership journey. Let me break the title into some distinct elements:

I am humble, fallible and I get things wrong

It is an honour, a privilege and a responsibility to lead. It is one I take immensely seriously and practice daily. This part of leading was drilled home to me when I messed things up in a really successful way. I was part of a team and then was given the opportunity to lead this team. As part of the transition I was given a mentor and some advice:

“You need to be different now. You were one of the team, now you manage the team. You cannot be the same as you were. No going to lunch. No socialising after work. You need to create the -GAP- between you the manager and them the subordinate.”

Biggest load of rubbish and if anyone ever tells you this, ignore it. It took a member of my team taking me aside and telling me I had my head stuck so far up my own backside that it is a wonder I can see to walk to wake me up!

I sat the team down and gave a heartfelt apology, asked if they could forgive my behaviour for the last 3 months and can we start again. To my surprise they all said yes, thanked me for admitting my mistake, for asking for their understanding and they would support my development as a leader.

The level of support I then received over the following 18 months was immense and it was probably my biggest period of growth. I also found that I made loads more mistakes and when I admitted them to myself and the team the more trust, engagement and support I received.

I don’t always know the answer

In all my years working with teams the hardest thing I have ever done is lead a team into, through and out of major change.

It seems to me that there is a commonly held view that managers or leaders should know or have all the answers all the time. What I learned, especially during this process, is that those I lead want to know all that I know, even if that is half (or less) of a story.

Approximately 10 minutes after the end of meeting where I was informed that wholesale change was coming, I told the team that change was on the horizon and we had two options:

1)       I can tell you all I know as soon as I know it. That will mean there will be ambiguity, gaps in what I know, things will change and I will do all I can to support them.

2)       I will keep things to myself and only once the full picture has been created and we know the answers to the main key questions will I share what is happening and I will do all I can to support them.

Option 1 was a unanimous choice; interestingly I think that this goes against some common approaches or best practice.

Over the coming weeks I shared everything I knew as quickly as I could and the message I kept giving was:

“I don’t know what the outcome will be, I am sorry and as soon as I do know I will pass it on. What I also know is you are amazing individuals and an amazing team. Together we can find a way to work with and through this difficult time and I will do all I can to support you.”

In return I got:

“Yes the situation is rubbish and at least we know what is happening and when. Keep talking to us please.”

This experience reinforced for me:

–          trust is vital, if you can trust others with information then they will trust you to do the best you possibly can

–          telling people you don’t know is infinitely better then telling them nothing.


I am enough

Do you want or expect those you work with to be perfect?

This may seem an odd question and yet one I think we can ask more often.  Why? Because I am yet to meet anyone (indeed, anyone) that answers “Yes” to that question.

Yet, when I was early in my experiences with leading I imposed this belief that I needed to be perfect. It was important (in my head) I was perceived by my team, my stakeholders, my customers as perfect. I also hear this in discussions with colleagues, clients and peers.

What I ended up doing was spending more and more time getting frustrated with myself as I was never able to live up to my (now known to be unrealistic) expectation.

I now know; I am enough.

I started by active and purposeful descent into all things leadership thank to one of my all-time inspirational bosses. I talk to her regularly and if you read this Alison, thank you so so much for all you have done to make me fly and helping me arrive at the realisation that:


I am humble, fallible and I get things wrong, I don’t always know the answer, I am enough and I LEAD

What has been your key learning?

Who has helped your development?


2 responses to “I am humble, fallible … and I LEAD

  1. Pingback: Lead; each & every day! | e3ctc·

  2. Pingback: A different story…. « fuchsia blue·

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