My son has reached the stage of insisting he can do everything by himself. One area he is emphatic about is in the bathroom. Admittedly, he does fairly well, with one exception. He routinely forgets to ensure his zipper is up.
When I bring it to his attention, he shrugs it off by saying things like, “Oh well, there aren’t any guests here, so I don’t need to worry about it.”
In his 5-year-old mind, he will suddenly overcome his habit of not checking his fly when it matters.
You and I know how this is going to go. An event will occur where his habit of not checking his zipper will provide an awkward and potentially anxiety-inducing moment that will cause unnecessary unhappiness.
This doesn’t need to happen. He could avoid embarrassment and a potentially bad day by practicing now before it matters.
In other words, by practicing now he will be less likely to be caught with his fly down.
Let’s make it more general: By practicing now, he can avoid the debilitating experience of shame and embarrassment.
What does this have to do with authentic leadership and being WITH?
Quite a lot, actually.
Authentic leaders practice being a leader when it doesn’t matter so when a situation does arise, they don’t expend all their energy being shamed from their zipper being down instead of focusing on the people involved and situation at hand.
Let’s make this practical - when was the last time you practiced leadership skills?
When was the last time you practiced having a crucial conversation with yourself in the mirror without actually having a crucial conversation on your calendar?
When did you last ask a trusted colleague to give honest feedback, and look for ways to incorporate the suggested changes?
When did you last seek ways to grow your strengths so they can shine in the moment they are needed?
When did you last look for ways to build relationships on your team?
When did you last read a leadership book or participate in a leadership event?
When did you last practice being a leader?
There are many ways to practice leadership “when no guests are over.” Two basic principles to act on daily are:
Learn about yourself (self-awareness)
Care for others
Don’t wait until guests arrive to practice checking for your zipper’s location.
Don’t wait until a leadership situation is thrust upon you to practice leadership skills.
Be WITH now so you can be WITH when it matters.