Leaders: How can I help?
In my work with teams, I am amazed at how often a participant will make a comment in a group setting that strikes me to the core. Recently, there were two particular experiences with two very different groups that stayed with me long after the sessions ended. Each insight was powerful on its own, but together they have an important message for how we view our leaders.
In the first situation, I was working with a college team. They were divided into groups of 6-7 players. Each group was asked to select a leader and then everyone in the group, including the leader, was asked to put on a blindfold. Next, they had to work together to take a rope and make it into a perfect square. (This is much harder than it sounds!)
During the debriefing process, one of the players suddenly shared, “I forgot that our leader was blindfolded too!” Her small group leader then shared how she was trying to do her best during the activity but she reminded them that it was a challenge because she was blindfolded too. We spent some time discussing the fact that it may often appear that things are easy for our leaders but the fact is they are navigating the same struggles as everyone else.
Fast forward a week and I’m with a different team. We are debriefing an experience and young woman was sharing how she often feels like she needs to be “the leader” and that she has to be strong for those around her. She said, “everyone knows if they need something just go find me (Emily) and I’ll take care of it. But sometimes I look around and I wonder who will be Emily for Emily?” And the room fell silent. It hadn’t crossed their minds that their leader might have needs too.
The juxtaposition of both moments left me thinking about how often we forget that our leaders, despite the fact that they often appear strong and confident, have needs as well. I wonder what it would be like for a group to consistently take care of their leaders so their leaders could give more to the group?
The healthiest teams I work with have great leadership and great team culture, but it is also clear to me that on those teams the leaders aren’t carrying all the weight.
So the next time your leaders seem off, tired, or not at their best approach them with this question; “how can I help?” Actually, I take that back, don’t wait for your leaders to have an off day to ask that question. Instead, ask it early and often. By doing so you will help equip your leaders to be at their very best. When leaders have a strong support system they will have more to give to those they are leading and by asking “how can I help?” you will help facilitate that process.
Molly Grisham, mollygrisham.com
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