Letting Go of Control and Dropping the Mask

This past week my debt of gratitude to the NHS grows even greater.  It has been sixteen months after they so expertly delivered my daughter, Sophia into the world with an emergency C-section.  I can still remember that feeling of having to surrender any kind of control of the situation and handing over to the experts and trusting them with the lives of my loved ones.

Sophia had been quite ill for a few days already when I noticed one morning that a rash had appeared all over her body. For those who have experienced this they will know that it’s quite a shock.  So, I rang the local medical centre, described her symptoms, and was advised to take her to A&E immediately.

Sophia found the examination by the doctor extremely upsetting and was looking to us with open arms with a look of confusion and desperation that said “Why are you letting him do this?  Help me!”  The emotional instinct within me to pick her up, take her away from this and protect her was almost overwhelming.  All I could do was reassure her that it was ok.

With health matters I’m finding there are just so many things that I don’t know and must defer to the experts.  This is an uncomfortable feeling and requires huge amounts of trust to be placed in the medical experts.  It’s uncomfortable to feel like you don’t know what you are doing.

I wonder as a leader, have you ever had that thought or feeling that you don’t know what to do or you don’t have the answer?  That’s when the ego kicks in and suggests that “You SHOULD know this!  You’re the leader after all.  Don’t let them see you don’t know. It’ll be seen as a weakness”.  Ever had such conversations in your head?  Congratulations on being a human.

When we are ruled by our egos like this we keep our true selves hidden away, we protect ourselves from the judgement of others, we wear a mask. It is a powerful and fear based motivation.  I don’t want you to see that I’m sweating here.  Patrick Lencioni in his book ‘The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team’ explains that the reality is that those around us can see that we’re sweating before we realise it.  The great leaders will point to the sweat marks in their arm pits and say “Check this out!”.  We are called as leaders to drop the mask and to share our vulnerabilities and our mistakes. By doing so we allow those around us to admit to mistakes and shortcomings.  When this happens then learning and growth can take place as people become less concerned with self-protection.

Maybe you don’t have to be the one who has all the answers?  What if you felt ok to say “You know what I really don’t know what to do here, I need some help”.  Not knowing what to do or not being good at something can be stressful.  Learning to let go of control and trust others can feel overwhelming but ultimately is a way of enabling others around you to act and develop.

  • How might you be able to let go and create the space for others to become experts?
  • How might your fears be having an impact on your self-development and on those around you?
  • What possibilities might open up if you could ask for help, drop the mask a little and let go of control?

Learning to let go of control and to engender trust in your team is just one aspect of becoming an inspirational and transformational leader.  We would love you to come and join us on one of our Pioneer Leadership Programmes.


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