Intuitively we all know that somethings we need to let go of. But it’s so much easier said than done, even when we know that we’re holding on to things that hold us back from achieving our goals, being our authentic selves or just finding inner peace. Letting go of old thoughts and old baggage is just plain difficult.
As a coach, I see Leaders holding on to a huge list of things including (and not only!):
- The need to know everything
- The need to feel in complete control
- The need to be right
- The drive for relentlessly climbing up the corporate ladder to more responsibility or status
- The fear of being “caught” as an imposter
- The habit of focusing on problems
Not being able to let go, however, in the long term keeps us stuck and slows down our progress. When we refuse to leave our comfort zones, because we are clinging to limited or old beliefs or driven by an addiction to being safe, no growth can happen. Letting go means putting ourselves into unknown territory. Even for those who know and understand the huge body of brain research that repeatedly and unequivocally demonstrates brain plasticity and how the brain CAN rewire itself, it is not easy to trust ourselves enough to let go. And the higher up we are in an organization, the stronger our resistance seems to be. Rewiring new behaviors and thoughts takes time, faith and patience. And usually we feel that there is too much to lose if we don’t get it right immediately.
I once heard a story about a person locked in dark, dank cell, desperately struggling to get out by clinging to a tiny barred window through which a small glimmer of light shone. He died just looking out the window. If he had taken time to explore the dark, he would have discovered that there was an unlocked door that led to greater rooms filled with treasure and a way to escape. Letting go is exactly like that – you might have to grope in the dank smelly unknown for a bit before you find a door. (And frankly, even if there was no door, as in the story, it’s not exactly that the window was going away, you could always come back to that option).
Letting go as a leader, while admittedly can feel uncertain and unstable while new, usually leads to better quality relationships and enables others to become more engaged and motivated. And the more we let go of our need to control, to have all the answers, the more we start to draw from the strength of others and create a truly empowered workplace, where everyone has the opportunity to contribute and collaborate in a meaningful way. It’s only by shedding old notions of our roles or images of what a good leader should be, and replacing it with basic authenticity, that transformation can begin.
What can you let go? What will it take for you to do it? As always, I am interested in hearing your thoughts.