Ever have those days as a leader where you question your ability to lead? For me today is one of those days. I simply don’t feel like leading. I don’t feel like representing myself as the visionary, mission driven face of my department or organization. Feelings like this are not new to me. I have suffered from these thoughts before. The difference for me today is that I know these feelings shall pass and I don’t have to react to them. In the past I would have just abandoned my day. I would have talked myself right into thinking that I needed a change and that I needed to dust off the old resume and move onto something I was more suited for. Obviously leading was not my calling my brain would tell me. Thank God today I can actually acknowledge the root of my negative thoughts and walk through them. For me this negative thinking was a result of sleep deprivation resulting in heightened sensitivity.

You see my team and I just came off a long weekend where we upgraded our clinical computer system. Upgrades like this take hours and impact every caregiver in our hospital. Rarely do they go off without a snag and this one was no exception. The weekend activities required me to be up for 25 hours straight. My purpose of being on site during this upgrade was not to lead my troops; the leader in this event, my Project Manager was doing a stellar job. My purpose was to support my team who had put in lots of hours getting ready for this event. Everyone on my team was suffering today from a lack of “weekend time”.

On this Monday morning we were all still feeling the residual effects of the weekend and dealing with minor issues related to the system upgrade. This was evident when I walked into the office of one my people to discuss an issue. The conversation ended in a very defensive way. This was not typical. We strive very hard to live by our core values of honesty, accountability, respect, and teamwork. This conversation violated at least two of those values. As I walked back to my office these feelings overwhelmed me “I simply don’t feel like leading today”.  I was tired, my staff was tired, and rallying the battle cry was simply not in me. This is where the self talk kicks in. I reminded myself that feelings are feelings and they are not facts. I needed to eat some lunch and just unplug for a half hour. I don’t get to choose when I want to lead. This is my assignment and I did not accept it conditionally, namely when I “felt” like it. I accepted this assignment to lead in all conditions.

The best solution I have found for making it through these times is to acknowledge them and to be transparent with those around me. Now that does not mean that I run out and tell all my people that today I do not feel like being your leader. What it means to me is to let those I most trust know that I am not in a good space today. It means not dusting off my resume or surfing LinkedIn. It means focusing on the tasks at hand until I am able to refocus on the bigger picture. For me building a culture of mutual trust and respect from those I lead requires me to push through. It requires me to stop thinking about myself and to focus on others. So today I will lead despite myself and I will do it by suiting up and showing up regardless of how I feel. That is what leaders do. I am sure that there are times in every great leaders life where he would rather retreat then charge and for that I am comforted to know I am not alone.

@chrismwalden

Photo: collegeinfogeek.com

4 Comments

  1. Kate Gamble | Reply

    Chris, this was such a great piece. When reading it, I immediately thought of my early days as a mom to preemie twins. It was beyond exhausting, and I had quite a few days where I thought I just wasn’t cut out to be a parent. The best advice I got was something you said: those feelings do pass, and we don’t have to react to them. So true.

    I also love how you said that a leader doesn’t get to choose when they want to lead. It’s a great message.

  2. Jason Trites | Reply

    Chris,

    This article made me think back on some of my early leadership challenges where I did not necessarily feel up to the leadership challenge at the time. I have had some great mentors though who have helped me through those moments to make me a better person and hopefully a better leader myself. It is amazing to look back through memory to remember how I felt then and how I feel today about leadership challenges and the responsibility of leadership.

    I will concur that leaders do not get to choose when to lead and have personally felt that challenge. I remember a particular project in a previous organization where our CEO had to step out prior to a major project implementation due to a family emergency. He placed his trust in me to lead the project implementation to its completion. That implementation turned out to be a trial by fire exercise due to many unexpected vendor/technical issues that arose which caused significant delays in completing the project on-time. By the time the project implementation was finally completed successfully, I had worked over 24 hours straight – for a project that was originally expected only to take 6-8 hours to implement. Whether a project is going well or not, a leader has to be ready to step up to the plate anytime.

    Thank you for the great article!

  3. Chris Walden Post author | Reply
    Chris Walden

    Jason having worked with you I can attest to the authenticity of your comments. You are a true leader and a fine man. Thank you for the comments.

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