Being a leader looks different for everyone.
Some associate leadership with being right. An authority. A decision-maker who knows.
Some think it's about being effective. Someone who actually gets the job done.
Are they different things? I think so. There's absolutely a difference between being a know-it-all, human encyclopedia and actually providing something that people can use, whether it's a product, answer or service.
I can be that human encyclopedia about a few things, but definitely with healthy lifestyle information. I experienced an extreme eating disorder in high school and ever since then I have been learning about nutrition. I also know about supplements and better cleaning products and how to live an eco-lifestyle because it's been my life for over 20 years. I worked in health food stores in my 20s. A lot of what's hip now is old news for me. I know a lot of things. Great.
Did all this knowing help when a client of mine was struggling with losing weight? I was using the same process I use for all my clients, some of whom want to lose weight. Not all my clients do. Some of them want to learn healthier habits that result in weight loss. But that wasn't working for this particular client. She had a weight loss goal and my open-ended, self-guided recommendations weren't providing enough structure for her. All that I knew wouldn't help because there was no way I could download 20 years worth of information and life experience into her brain so she could see results.
She liked our conversations. She expressed clear benefit and value from my presence, methods and support. And, because something in her gut said she needed it, she chose to find something to supplement our work together that would help her reach her goal.
She chose Weight Watchers.
Now, for some people this might land as a threat. When someone questions your method and seeks something outside of it that would work better, it could feel like you aren't good enough. Or smart enough. That your way or who you are isn't right. Well, that's actually true. Because there's no such thing as right. There's right for you and right for me and right for each of my client(s).
Do I think Weight Watchers is effective? It doesn't matter. If my client says she wants to try it, I'm going to support her. I'm her coach, not an arrogant ass who thinks I know better. And even if I DO have opinions about WW, I'm not going to tell her what to do. I'm not going to truncate her process of self-discovery and exploration in finding how to reach her goal of losing weight. I'm not going to rain on her parade of experimentation. I'm going to tell her that I support her, 100%, in finding what works best for her.
Why? Because I want to be effective, not right. Me "knowing" an answer is about my ego. It's about me feeling good about myself and feeling needed. It's not actually being effective.
If WW actually works for her, that means I did my job. I supported her in finding her right way to lose weight. If she's happy and making progress, she wins and I do, too.
You want to know if she's winning, right? Well, I'm thrilled to say she is. After months of persisting and trying hard to do it the way I suggested, she went out on her own and is expertly combining the best of what I give her and the best of what WW provides. She's sorting and sifting through their resources and she comes back to our sessions to see what I think. I tell her my honest opinion, careful to never come from a place of being right. I'm not trying to get her to think like me or think my way is the best one. I'm giving her advice from my own experience based on my unique needs. I'm telling her what I've learned from 20+ years in my field. I'm recommending best practices. WW is doing the same thing and my client is learning to listen to us and herself to make the right decision.
There is no greater gift we can give people than the power and process of their own self-discernment. Adults learn by doing. The experience of trial and error in the face of failure or success boosts self-esteem and self-confidence and is the foundation of self-efficacy.
And if we consider ourselves leaders, whether it's in our professions or personal lives, this is what true leadership is and can be when done well. If you want to be right, you can truncate this process and skip to the ending of the book and give your people the right answer. OR you can consider that you have no idea what the right answer is and let them discover one that really works and might amaze the heck out of you.
So, the next time someone comes to you seeking support ask yourself, would I rather be right or effective?