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Coaching for the Long Hill of ChangePosted Monday, December 17, 2012
Last May, I rode my bike in a century. I had completed 50-mile rides before, but I had never ridden 100 miles in one day. I trained hard, but not hard enough. About mile 60, I boinked. My energy reserves were depleted, and my speed dropped five miles an hour. Halfway up a long hill, I stopped. I had to catch my breath and decide if I was going to finish. I completed the hundred miles, but it was a close thing.
Like the long distance cyclist, leaders must be internally motivated. External praise is rare. The cheers of the crowd are too distant to carry you up the hills. You cannot afford to boink at the 60 mile point.
There are signs of leadership fatigue everywhere. At a leadership conference last week, one of the keynote speakers suggested we give up trying to change large organizations. Several panelists talked about the loneliness of leadership.
Leadership lite is about prestige and power, personal glory and personal gain. Regular readers of this blog know that I do not prescribe leadership lite. In my experience, the challenges of true leadership are large. Change leaders must master the four C’s: commitment, competence, capacity and character. In general, change leaders have to work longer, harder and smarter than the people around them.
I don’t intend to discourage true leaders. You need to have realistic expectations of the leadership challenges you face. But you also need support. You probably will not find encouragement from the people you lead. You may not find support from your peers, especially if you are competing with them for budget, talent or promotions. And, if your own leaders are fully engaged, they may be more discouraged and stressed than you are.
There is hope. You are not condemned to a life of lonely leadership. You simply need to gather the support you need.
Use the support you already have. Reach out to your close friends and family. Engage your circle of trusted advisors. Talk about your challenges and your discouragement.
Once you become an executive, you probably should hire an executive coach for yourself. Even before then, if you are leading change, investigate whether your organization will provide a leadership coach. A good coach will provide real and present encouragement. A coach will also help you find the support you need in others. And, a coach will help you develop the commitment, competence, capacity and character you need to lead change.
Leading change requires you to climb the long hills without much encouragement. Get coaching so you can keep pedaling.
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