“I’ve been fired from every job I’ve had,” a Rebel told me recently.
“What have you learned from that”?” I asked.
“That leadership is totally broken and we need to figure out a new model,” he said.
“What about you,” I gently probed, wanting to understand what he had learned about himself.
“I’m going to lead the charge and be a thought leader about the need for new ways to lead,” he said.
Our frameworks for “leadership” certainly need updating. But can you lead anything without self-reflection and learning?
Few relational problems — whether with other teammates or with our boss — are the complete fault of one person. What role did we play?
And all challenges, whether relational, systemic, or situational, are an opportunity to get smarter. About the organization, the people resisting our ideas, and ourselves.
We can learn or blame.
To me, blame is a way to flee into our comfort zones. It’s so much harder to stay in the challenge zone and try to see causes, unhelpful behaviors, deep assumptions, and, possibly, solutions within the uncomfortable situation. As us Bostonians would say, it’s wicked hard not to run to what feels more comfortable. I know, because it’s a pattern I had to break to become more trusted as a Rebel at Work.
Getting angry is running to the comfort zone. So are pointing fingers, giving up, or refusing to see patterns, like why you always get fired or never get funding for your ideas.
The upside of learning, when challenged, is that it grows our comfort zones. Next time we’re facing a similar challenge, we better know what to do — or not to do. What emotions can help us, like curiosity and surprise, and what can derail us, like fear and anger. Who we can talk with to expand our perspectives and question our gut assumptions. How we can deal with our anger and frustration in ways that avoid hurting others or our reputation.
Conversely, if we find ourselves fighting more and more challenges, we’re growing our challenge zone and shrinking our comfort zone. Learning grows our comfort zones.
Many ask Carmen and me why some people are effective Rebels at Work and others rebel and burn out or give up. What do those successful people do?
As Carmen wrote last week (“The Orthodoxy of Tribes” ), effective Rebels examine their organization’s sacred values and determine how heretical or dangerous their ideas are to those values.
Successful Rebels also learn from every challenge. They don’t run from them or take refuge in the blame-game comfort zone.
In his book “Leading Out Loud” author Terry Pearce wrote, “There are many people who think they want to be matadors, only to find themselves in the ring with two thousand pounds of bull bearing down on them and then discover that what they really wanted was to wear tight pants and hear the crowd roar.”
It’s tough to do, but effective Rebels stay in the ring.