Real Leaders

How to Lead Without Needing Plan B

Have you ever considered that letting down your guard may be the best way to improve your leadership? Like most pearls of wisdom it’s counter-intuitive. But that’s precisely why only the brave dare try it!

I learned the value of letting down my guard recently. I started a new club in Spain for business leaders committed to promoting personal growth and invited important friends, clients and business partners from over the years to join me. It felt great: We were going to change the world and solve the problems we all face as a species. Yippee!

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And then it suddenly stopped feeling great and felt downright awful. Doubts arose, and I wondered whether I would pull it off or whether it was all a really bad idea – the result of moving too fast.

Questions arose from members of the club: Where were we going? What kind of people would be interested in joining? What was my vision?

Then I remembered all the times over the past few years when I was about to get on my horse to ride, and I suddenly froze with panic. I remembered that fear was momentary. I remembered it was an old, automatic reaction that only appeared in that moment – a blind repetition of past habits.

So, like I learned to do when riding my horse, I focused my mind on remaining calm, breathing in big, deep lungfuls of air. I checked there were no signs of danger around me. Then I dismissed my bad feelings and aimed at slowly reducing them as I swung my leg over the horse’s back and cued him to walk forward. After a few minutes, I was back to my confident self and ready to take on new challenges. It felt amazing to find my “greatness” again, after having momentarily lost it!

I’m not kidding. The innumerable times I’ve lost my mojo on my horse have taught me how to find it again, and more importantly, these times have shown me that losing my mojo is no more than a temporary setback from which I can work my way back. It’s the main reason I no longer need armor, a shield or a plan B. I’ve learned to trust my instincts and carefully trained talents fully.

As for my new and exciting business club? I’ve come to see the enormous value of allowing myself to go through these internal pirouettes around the center of my safety and confidence. I can also see a distinct difference in how I conducted myself 15 years ago, as opposed to now; when I would go into business challenges with bullet-proof confidence. While it felt great at the time, it blinded me. I was armored up. I was tough and indestructible. I was confident beyond the limitations of reality and didn’t consider any limitations. I was so focused on keeping up my perfect shield of: “Yes! I feel great! I can do this!” that I was unable to foresee potential risks or detect emerging problems until it was too late.

Nobody ever taught me that becoming vulnerable could make me a better reader of reality. Feeling a lack of confidence improves our perception of subtle non-verbal cues in other people, while fear is a sophisticated evolutionary tool of survival designed to keep ourselves, and our interests, safe at all times. No MBA professor ever warned me that bravery is not the absence of fear, but about managing your fear.

Letting down your guard is essential for refining your perception around a business situation. Removing our shield will train your ability to manage risk, ground deep-seated fears and hush doubts – in yourself and those who follow you.

Letting down our guards gives you back the flexibility, playfulness and perfect adaptability that we have developed as a species over millions of years. Although it doesn’t always feel great, it does turn business and life into an exhilarating adventure that you’ll never forget.

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