Leadership Scars Are Worth It
Before we get into the business side of things, let’s go back thirty-one years ago (1990) where I got the biggest physical scar, to date, on my body. A summer thunderstorm came ripping through our neighborhood, which resulted in trees getting uprooted. My best friend’s home needed some help so my Dad and I came over with rope, a sledgehammer and metal stakes. The rope was tied around the tree and metal stake to get the tree back into its vertical position. My Dad was doing the hard work of slinging the sledgehammer over and over to drive the metal stake into the ground.
My Dad looked like Thor swinging Mjolnir (hammer of Thor). As a twelve-year-old middle schooler, I thought “Heck, if my Dad can do it. I can do it!” I asked my Dad if I could take over. His response “This sledgehammer is really heavy. Are you sure you can do it?” Before my Dad could finish his sentence, I overconfidently said “Dad! I got this! It’s not hard!” I went to pick the sledgehammer up with one arm and nothing happened. Okay, I got this. Now I got two hands on the handle and picked the sledgehammer up near my shoulder. I was ready to show everyone watching that I was the man. As the sledgehammer was crashing down, my right index finger slipped and landed directly on the stake. BAM! I will save the details but after my visit to the ER, my finger was secured on with many stitches. To this day, I can see that scar around my finger. Do you have a scar? Most of us have scars and stories from when we were kids. Business is the same thing as leaders. We try to lead and somehow, we end up with a scar. Many of those scars happen when we start out as new leaders. These are emotional and mental scars. You are not alone!
Scar from an employee
This came up in a discussion when I was talking with an employee about the frustrating attitude they were portraying in meetings. The employee explained that they don’t trust anyone who is the leader because they don’t believe the leader is being fully honest with the team. It was punch to the gut! I explained that leaders can’t share everything as there is a need for privacy on some topics. A leader should share the details that impacts the team. I asked if I did anything else to break that person’s trust. The answer was no. The employee did make me feel a little better when that person said “It’s not just you. It’s anyone in leadership.” I left that meeting with a scar because it hurt to know I might never get some people to trust me as a leader.
This is hard because I know I brought the scar on myself. I have made so many mistakes where I got emotional and said something attacking or rude because of my frustration. Those are moments you can’t take back. I’m so thankful that many people have given me grace and forgiveness. These scars have taught me to be aware of my emotions and bite my tongue when I want to say something I will regret. This is an area that I am always going to have to work on but having self-awareness is key. I also know this scar is not just left on me but also the person I said the harsh words to. BE BETTER THAN ME! A great leader has self-control. If you start to feel your anger take over, get out of there! Walk away! Run away! Don’t stay and create damage that leaves scars on people and yourself.
This scar is one that I think we all have as a leader. You give a person some freedom and that freedom is taken advantage of. This could be an employee or manager. Some scars are little, and others are large when trust is broken. It makes sense that these scars make you cautious to trust others. Here is the truth, people are going to let you down. You are going to let people down. Some people are intentionally putting scars on you and others do it by accident. It’s important to not let these scars cause you to judge others unfairly. Give people a chance to show you that they can be trusted. I also think you can use that scar as wisdom to keep your radar up when you see similarities from the past situation. Let the scar be a reminder to you. What do you need to do to prevent another scar from happening? What did you learn from the scar? There is a lot of great people that will prove to you that they can be trusted. Don’t let the scars form the past stop you from being a great leader to someone that needs you!
The heart of a leader is what drives them through the pain, suffering, and scars. A leader who gets beat up and never quits is the person I want to be. Don’t hide your leadership scars. You put yourself out there and in return you got a scar. This scar doesn’t define you. Use these leadership scars as reminders to help others. As always, remember you are not alone. We can learn from each other. Let’s all get better together!