One Shift That Will Make You a Better Leader


The input we seek

Would you agree that it is essential for leaders in higher education to listen actively and to be open to new ideas and different perspectives? It is not a trick question. The answer is yes, especially when we genuinely value shared governance, but there is a very important distinction to make. Listening means collecting information, facts, or data, not opinions.

Great leaders take a reasonable amount of time to learn facts and make informed decisions based on their own evaluation of a situation. Their decision making is based on their core values, beliefs, expertise and experience. They trust their ability to do the right thing. They may consult with one or two carefully selected individuals because they value their expertise but they are not easily influenced by others.

Take a moment to reflect.

  • Do you have a tendency to ask people for their opinion because you need validation?
  • Do you tend to have a feeling that there is something you don’t know but others might know, so you have to ask around, even when you’re not sure what you’re looking for?
  • Do you feel more comfortable making decisions once other people tell you that they agree with you?

If you believe that asking for people’s opinion is a good leadership practice because you look more collaborative and inclusive, you need to also consider the negative aspects.

Unintended consequences

People who don’t trust themselves to make decisions and seek validation from others tend to create the following problems.

  • Leaders who don’t trust their own judgement are difficult to trust. If they experience doubt, others will feel doubt too.
  • They are easily influenced by others and tend to change their mind too often, based on whose opinion they trust in that moment.
  • They have difficulty communicating a strong vision and their employees feel unclear about how decisions are made.
  • They unintentionally create an unstable environment because they lack congruency and consistency.
  • They are easy to manipulate and are at the mercy of strong willed people. They may give away their power to a select few who know how to push their own agendas.
  • They tend to experience more stress, anxiety, and fear because of their lack of trust. They don’t feel secure.
  • They are also more likely to be disrespected or ignored than people who show their backbone more clearly.

Where it comes from

Lacking trust in oneself often stems from one or more of the following issues.

  • Confusing self-doubt for humility.
  • Being afraid of making a mistake.
  • Having low self-esteem, self-worth, or self-efficacy.
  • Being unwilling to forgive oneself for making a mistake.
  • Refusing to take responsibility and placing responsibility on someone else (e.g. “I did what X told me to do.”)
  • Being more focused on insecurities than on purpose and service to others.
  • Not having outgrown childhood programming (e.g. still choosing obedience and compliance over independence to gain acceptance.)

What to do instead

If you want to continue growing as a leader, it is absolutely essential to learn to trust yourself more. Please understand that only a few individuals have something to contribute that you don’t already have within yourself, and while it is good to learn from carefully chosen professionals at specific times, it is not in your best interest to put responsibility in other people’s hands.

Even with the best of intentions, people cannot help but form opinions based on their own biases, agendas, fears, and past experiences. They will try to influence you to think more like they do but in many cases, it will cause you to lose sight of your own truth. You must have a strong internal compass and know your values.

When you listen to people, make sure to differentiate facts from emotions. Learn what you need to consider to make an informed decision and stop seeking validation or approval. Give yourself more credit. There are reasons why you were chosen for the position you have now. What you need is already within yourself.

I hope this article gave you a new perspective on collaboration and decision making. Please make a promise to yourself that you will start valuing your own critical thinking and decision making abilities more and stop relying on others when you are unsure. The only approval you need is your own, and you will get it when you make educated decisions in alignment with your core values.

If you have difficulty making this shift, I invite you to work with me to identify and transform unconscious beliefs that lead you to give away your power to others. Lacking trust in oneself causes tremendous emotional pain and prevents professionals from thriving in their career and professional life. Click here to schedule a time for us to talk and we’ll discuss how I can help you develop more trust and live an empowered life!

About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits.  Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset. 

Comment image.png