David Harding: When you let go of control, you gain power to be comfortable ― and secure

David Harding, CEO, HardingPoorman Group

A true leader realizes he has flaws. Before he can be a leader he has to fix them.

The problem is never the other person; it’s you.

Many people I have mentored love to play the “victim.” “If only this hadn’t happened to me.” Or, “If this person hadn’t done this to me, everything would be better.”

One way to work on yourself is to hire a personal coach. Several years ago, I hired a personal coach, and it changed my life significantly.

My personal coach helped me “step out of my life” and think about things from a different angle. He helped me improve both my personal and professional relationships.

I met with him once a week until I felt as if I could utilize the structure and support he provided on my own.

In a sense, it was very much like seeing a therapist. My personal coach encouraged me to read books I would have never thought about reading, opening up entirely new perspectives on life. We would discuss how the themes in the books applied to me. He made me think about how I led.

I learned that you control how you think, act, and feel. When you’re in rush hour traffic and running late, who is to blame? Not the traffic ― you chose to leave during rush hour.

Define ‘being in charge’

“Control” doesn’t mean you should be controlling.

To gain total control of your leadership abilities, you don’t need a single best-selling author to tell you how. You already have total control over the process; you just need to let go of the control.

Somehow that doesn’t sound like the big idea for us perfectionists and Type A achievers, does it? Letting go sounds a little weak and threatening. That’s because what we’re really talking about here is vulnerability.

Interestingly, when you let yourself be truly seen, revealing your heart and soul ― and insecurities, lack of knowledge, prowess, certainty, whatever — what you truly gain is the power to be comfortable. And being comfortable to be yourself radiates security. It’s true. Vulnerability is amazing. People pick up on it like magnets.

What’s more, when you feel comfortable in your own skin, you do a much better job at work, at home, and in your personal life. Let go of control and let yourself be truly seen. Transparency is wonderful.

Practice being fallible

To one likes being wrong. When we were younger, we all considered leaders such as our president, parents, teachers or ministers to be infallible. But being an authority or a leader isn’t a person who is always right. In fact, being always right is impossible. There is no such animal.

A true leader — the real authority ― is a person (or institution) who has a process for lowering the likelihood that they are wrong to acceptably low levels.

Taking this to a level of reality and openness in your workplace, how do you accomplish this? Can those around you let you know when you are going down the wrong path? Do you think this is the case, or do you have the systems in place to make sure this is true?

If you haven’t been called on a decision you’ve made or something you’ve said in more than a month, chances are good that you haven’t made it clear to your colleagues you will be occasionally, absolutely wrong. Those you lead need to know you are counting on them to let you know when they disagree, and that you will be ready to hear their opinions.

Being wrong can be right

Be open to being wrong. This is vitally important to manage effectively. Those you work with will value your leadership and authority even more when they know this is the case.

Force yourself into uncomfortable situations. The only way you will ever expand your horizons is to expand your comfort zone.

If a situation is uncomfortable for you, acknowledge it. Say, “I’m really nervous about bringing up this issue. I’ve been worrying about it for days.” You’ll be surprised how the other person reacts.

As author Seth Godin said, “You can’t have success unless you’re prepared to have failure.”

A wise friend once told me to do what you fear. It will be your best ally.

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has voted the company as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana. Harding can be reached at [email protected] For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com.