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Bossiness and Fear

I’ve been thinking a lot about this boss vs. leader thing. 

I love the values that are behind the words on the Leader side of the table.  I absolutely believe in empowering people to do their best, giving them the tools to excel and permission to innovate.  But…I don’t always come out as well as I would like in this comparison.  It is difficult to put my ego aside and get away from the need for everyone to do things the way I think they should be done.

Here are some of the ways that I tend to fall into a bossy position:

I am a person who usually thinks things through and looks at a lot of angles before I bring things out into the open.  By the time I bring an idea to a team, I am already invested in my idea of how it should go, and I have a lot of data to back up my position.  Once I’ve thought something through and come up with a solution that seems right to me, it’s hard for me to change the direction of my thinking.  That puts me in a position to want to force my will on others, rather than inviting collaboration. 

For me, the solution to this is to work with a team earlier rather than later in a project.  I actually tend to have better ideas when I have the opportunity to do some brainstorming and playing around with ideas with other people.  My creativity is spurred by working with others.  But I have to make sure I’m prepared for a flexible mindset.

When I am in a position of power, I can fall into the “because I said so” trap. Again, this is partly a function of my certainty that I’ve thought something through very thoroughly and you should just accept that.  In addition, my ego and pride want you to acknowledge how smart and methodical I am. 

What I’ve come to find out though is that when I try to make decisions for people when they should be making decisions for themselves, I deprive them of their power, and of their pride in ownership of a project or decision.  I have to remind myself often that my way is not the only right way, and that my partners and coworkers are capable adults.

In order to foster innovation, I have to consciously choose not to be stuck in my version of reality.  The beauty of creativity is that it can lead to new thinking and new results.  A couple of months ago our theme of the month was play.  I learned that the type of play that gets the best results is non-directed, with no rules or goals, just imagination. That means I have to let go of preconceived notions.  I have to let go of my fixed idea of how to get to the goal, or even what the goal is.  I’m not good at spontaneity without warning; I can do it, but it helps if I know it’s coming. 

I have also been prey to the “it’s easier if I just do it myself” mentality.  Explaining exactly how something should be done and then making sure it got done exactly how I wanted it done, takes more time than just doing it myself.  But this is attitude is not of service to anyone. 

Thinking I can get away with not delegating is also linked to my fantasy that there is a lot more time in a day than there really is.  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be busy all the time any more.  I want to have some breathing room in my life, time for relaxation, for quality time away from my work, and for feeling uncluttered and joyful.  When I am operating from an overly inflated opinion of my capacity to get things done, I am always pushing.

Related to that is the difficulty of asking for help.  To be a part of a supportive culture requires me to admit I don’t have all the answers, all the energy, or all the time necessary to operate by myself.  In fact, I don’t want to be an island.  Isolation can be lonely even for this introvert.  I love to feel that I am part of something larger than myself and that we are working towards a common purpose.

In going through this list, I notice a pattern.  The bossy stuff comes from my fears – that I will not be respected and recognized for my accomplishments; that working in partnership will be harder than working by myself; or that if you really knew how not-together I am you wouldn’t want to work with me.

The good news is I don’t have to be ruled by my fears.  I can move away from bossiness and towards  my ideals and values by slowing down, practicing mindfulness, being flexible, and remembering what I want. I can become a conscious leader.

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