As I have spent the last 6 years of my life pursuing learning and growing as a leader, two things I have heard often is “Great leaders are always asking questions” and “Great leaders embrace conflict”. Neither one of those things come natural to me. I have tried hard to grow in both of those areas. I have taken notes on the kinds of questions other great leaders ask. I have taken notes on how people I respect handle conflict and then gone back and studied them. I have read books about asking questions and embracing conflict. I have asked questions about asking questions but still often left feeling like I was missing something. I would often leave places frustrated at the great questions that were asked and that I hadn’t come up with any of them even when I had tried. I would often question God with “Am I just not worried to think like that?” “Am I not smart enough to think the way other’s think?” It would leave me frustrated and feeling like a failure.
Yesterday I had an interaction with my father at the hospital as we were sitting in the waiting room that caused me to have an epiphany. He simply said “somebody needs to take that kid out and make him mind” I hadn’t even noticed the child. I had to look around to figure out what he was talking about. The child was running around a bit right around the adult he was with but wasn’t making any noticeable noise and the adult didn’t seem bothered but was engaging him in the play. My father saw it as misbehaving. I saw it as being a child. Later that day I had another discussion with my father that caused me to realize I had been taught my whole life that questioning authority and engaging in conflict were disrespectful and inappropriate. My inability to ask “good questions” and “embrace conflict” wasn’t because I wasn’t capable, it was because I had unknowingly accepted a mindset that questioning and conflict were bad. I had been taught my whole life that children are to be seen and not heard. They should sit quietly and respect their elders. When an adult tells you something, never question them. When conflict arises, turn the other cheek.
Even though that was not what I had taught my own children or even what I knew to be true, I had unknowingly allowed that thought process to stay hidden in my heart somewhere. Even though my desire was to become a better leader, my upbringing and the mindsets that were so ingrained that I didn’t even realize were there, were preventing me from letting go of the fear of being considered disrespectful, mean, and arrogant.
Realizing there is a problem is only half the solution. If all I do is admit I am wrestling with the wrong mindset, I won’t grow. I have to develop a plan for how to overcome that mindset when I feel it creeping in. That got me thinking…what things in our past…thought processes, belief systems, failures, or even successes have hindered us from growing to the next level? And what are you doing to prevent those things from being a hinderance.