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Liberating Leaders

Mike Caracalas Texas Leadership Coach

The tagline for my company brand is “Liberating Leaders to Lead.” Have you ever wondered what we mean by that?

At Caracalas and Associates we have 3 pillars for the work that we do… We “Liberate Leaders,” which is about the coaching we do one-on-one with leaders. We also “Transform Teams” by taking a group of individuals and turning them into a high-performance team. And at the organization-wide level, we help those same leaders and teams “Engage the Enterprise.” I’ll talk about teams and enterprises another time, but it all starts with leaders.

The most challenging part of Leadership is not about learning a new set of skills. There are certainly skills that are necessary to be a great leader, but if you are talking about wanting to lead more effectively, the chances are high that you already possess the skills you need. The most challenging part of Leadership is letting go of the things that prevent you from leading. In a very real way, those things have a hold over us, so the secret to developing as a leader is to be Liberated from what holds you back.

The list of things a leader can let go of to become more effective is huge, but for this post here are the top 4 things for great leaders to be liberated from.

The Need not to Fail.

One of the first things any good leader must learn is how to fail. But wait… this is about what to let go of, right? We all know how to fail. If we didn’t, we would never have learned to walk, or speak, or tie our shoes. The very nature of learning and growth is to fail and then learn from that failure. What holds just about every aspiring leader back is the fear of failure. Plain and simple, to become a better leader, let go of that. I like the phrase “fail early and fail often”. Easier said than done, but eminently possible. No single feeling limits us more than this fear of failure, which is why it is truly liberating when we are able to overcome it.

The Need to Be Right.

The second thing to let go of is the need to be right. This is definitely related to point one. We sometimes equate being right to not being wrong, and we equate being wrong with failure (see point #1). The problem with this one is that when it comes to leading, which is about creating change rather than maintaining the status quo, there is rarely just one way of doing something. More to the point, needing to be right either shuts other people down, or it sets up an unproductive (i.e., my way or the highway) conflict. There is certainly a place for advocating– and even fighting– for what you believe is right, but that’s very different than a need to be right. Discovering the difference is one of the ways leaders get liberated.

The Need to Look Good.

When we work alone, or when we work on one part of a larger whole, we tend to get rewarded and recognized for our efforts. We do something good, someone important tells us how good it was, and then we feel good. In my experience, it’s hard to underestimate how ingrained that cycle becomes. When it comes to leading, that cycle that once served us now sabotages us in a couple different ways. First, we become afraid of letting any of our followers fail because of how we believe it will reflect on us. The second way this need to look good sabotages us is when we take credit for what our team has done. Great leaders will always be recognized for what they create through others, and it will happen as a result of the team looking good. Let go of the need to look good, the need to be the expert, and the need to get the credit. It holds you back as a leader. Liberate yourself from it.

The Need to Manage People.

The biggest mistake leaders make is trying to control what people do. It’s an understandable tendency given the nature of organizational life. Organizations are full of processes, procedures, and tools intended to manage complexity. Without that kind of management, the organization would be total chaos. The problem is that people are not processes and tools. Processes and tools can be managed, but in the case of people, if you want to get anything close to their best, they must be led. This one may actually be the most liberating of them all. Anyone who has spent much time “managing people” in an organization knows how exhausting and sometimes frustrating it can be. Trying to control people is a tremendous burden to carry. When you let it go and start leading instead, you are liberated.

These 4 things to let go of are simple, but far from easy for most of us. And for our clients who work with a coach to grow their leadership, the results can be truly liberating.

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