“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” – Pema Choldron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult times.
Most of us are familiar with the Hans Christian Anderson story of the emperor who has no clothes. Many aren’t clear of the facts behind it, though.
In the actual fable, two weavers promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that he doesn’t see any suit of clothes until a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”
I’ve often told people that the first step between management and leadership is an understanding of self. We’re all ready to tell others about our strengths, but not many want to acknowledge their weaknesses. When they look in the mirror they see part of themselves, not all of themselves. We tend to want to hide from our weaknesses and only see us as it is in our minds.
Unfortunately, that’s not leadership. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not leadership. If I could only give one piece of advice to those seeing themselves in leadership it would be to be diligent about seeking out your weaknesses so the truth is revealed in the mirror.