How my need for external validation holds me back – big time!
Leadership Coach, Front of Room Leader and Systemic Change Guide

Leadership is not so much about staying creative. It really is more about recovering to creativity, now, … and now, … and now. As we are creating a workshop for a larger organisation, we are looking into creative and reactive tendencies and how they make or break our leadership in any given moment.

But why are we reactive in the first place? We’ve written about this before, and usually, this is where we speak to the patterns we’ve acquired in childhood. Today we want to look at this from a different perspective:

Your values shape how you engage with the world.

Your personal values are your drivers. They shape your identity. Whether you are aware of them or not.

To be a leader, knowing the values that drive you, is a must. Without knowing your values, you might successfully strive for status and objects, but neither of which will lead to your happiness. And those you seek to lead, won’t get who you really are and what you stand for, which is why they won’t trust you, and will resist your leadership.

As a leader, it is equally indispensible to understand which identity based values lead you to seek external validation.

In my case it is this: My values are of the land of honesty and courage, independence and depth, creativity and play. And there is one value I keep tripping over: Intelligence. I need to be seen as competent. This need has stopped me from blogging for the longest time, for fear of being judged and made wrong. To overcome this fear took a lot of coaching sessions. My need to be seen as competent still keeps me from putting some of my ideas on the market to test whether the people I want to serve would want what I have to offer, and from me. For instance, who am I to create a tribe of big thinkers, of leaders for transformative change from within, when I so easily stumble over my need to be seen as competent? (It’s not good enough yet. I am not yet ready. … Bla, bla.)

In meetings where I don’t feel at ease, or judged, I stop being creative altogether, and all playfulness evaporates as I fall into the trap of needing to be seen as competent. I then turn from being spontaneous and engaging to guarded and boring, BUT at least very competent.

Being reactive is normal, and I dare you to take an honest look at your values and figure out which one(s) of yours lead(s) you to reactive behaviour. Wether it is directed against yourself or others does not make a difference. By now you might ask yourself:

What can you do to get back to being a leader?

It’s simple, and a lifetime’s practice: Noticing, accepting, recovering.

In those situations where I do eventually notice that my intelligence lid is coming down with a bang, I can choose to stay with, and accept that this is happening. Noticing, and forgiving myself is the precondition for being able to recover to my playful, natural self. However, when I don’t notice, but instead loose myself in a “having to be seen as competent” trance, I cease to be a creative leader in this situation. Instead I am falling prey to my own reactions. I am not having them. Instead, my reactions are having me. In meetings, I notice that I feel insecure, or sometimes I just get bored. I can suddenly get very tired as a result of all the unconscious focus on “looking smart”. I am basically in two conversations at the same time: the one outside and the one in my mind. This takes a lot of energy! Uneasiness, boredom, and sudden tiredness are my red flags that help me notice my being shut down.

What matters is not to never fall into reactiveness. What matters is the ability to recover ever faster. That is what determines whether we are creative leaders or reactive victims.

Why is this key to leadership?

Leaders create, they don’t react. Yet we all are reactive. As leaders we get chances to train the muscle of recovering every day.

In what situations do you let your need for external validation stop you from showing up as a leader?

For leadership coaching and developement, get in touch

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