The best intentions may include an eraser

You are a leader of an organization or team and your results are stagnant. You have tried various strategies but nothing changes. You’re stuck. And you just can’t afford to stand still any longer. You have reached that pivotal moment where you are ready to take action, though you aren’t sure what to do.

The biggest cause of conflict for individuals, teams and organizations is feeling powerless. When you are stuck, the “powerless barometer” kicks up and forces you into a protective mode where you sit idle, because doing nothing seems safer than failure. Or, you busy yourself with chasing new initiatives because at least you won’t be inert.

You pretend to be strong when all along you’re becoming weaker.

Confidence builds with humility

Put down your guard and admit the truth. We aren’t perfect — and pretending we are or that we don’t need to work on things denies the truth. When you can’t face facts, you play small because in that space of denial you are weak.

Mindful leaders know to slow down and notice the discord. They don’t turn away from it, but sit with the unrest as long as it takes to vet reality. They lean in to vulnerability and name what holds them back, thus diffusing its power.

They talk about it with their team and people who matter. They recognize the root fear that clouds their vision and have the courage to cut the bowlines and let it go.

Is loyalty to a senior leader holding you back? Did you go to market too soon? Does shutting down a line seem like failure? Do you not want to hurt someone but are hurting others in the process?

Change to make way for new

Sometimes we have to let go of things whose time has passed. The same goes for our personal lives.

Letting go of something might be the biggest initiative of your year. When you can stand in the open with the truth about what isn’t working, without internalizing it, you are free from busying yourself with perfection.

Done is better than perfect. Happy is better than perfect. “Done” and “happy” are where you play big.

Take the you-know-it’s-time-to-let-go litmus test:

  • What has the situation, mantra, person, performance been like so far?
  • Is it worth keeping?
  • Is there any sign that it will improve?
  • If not, are you willing to accept more of the same?
  • If no, what reason is there that tomorrow will be different?
  • What is the truth? What change can you believe in?

Mindful leaders can name what drains their energy, say thank you when they get difficult feedback, and build self-awareness with daily mindful practices like pausing, meditation, gratitude, intentions and deep listening because they know that the higher they go, the less supports are in place.

Go to a quiet place and sit with the dissonance that clutters your vision. And don’t get up until you have clarity.


Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE, is the president of, a consulting firm that helps people get off the treadmill to nowhere and enter the corner office. Mary Lee is an award-winning mindful executive strategist, certified coach and author. She has 20-plus years experience as a CEO leading organizations worth up to $26 million within 60,000 employee organizations, as well as coaching executives on mindful leadership.