Do You Have The Leadership Gift Part 2: Cope or Grow?

Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still. ~ Chinese Proverb

Are you more committed to coping or to growing? It’s a choice you make everyday, even if instinctively rather than intentionally.

(Note: this is part 2 of a 2-part article. Read Part 1)

Coping Isn’t Leading

Every day you and I cope with the stress of upsets and problems by denying, blaming, justifying, beating ourselves up, complying with what we think we should do, or by checking out or running away. When we do this, I dare say we are not exhibiting leadership, i.e., self-leadership.

To live with ourselves we vent, become cynical, argue vehemently in our minds with people we don’t know how to face, become ill, indulge in food, and do all of these in various combinations as our way to feel in control and “cope with the world.”

Growing Is Leading

The Responsibility Process is the mental path we use for doing that. And the Keys to Responsibility (Intention, Awareness, and Confront) are how we interact with that path.

We engage this option and choose growth by refusing to merely cope and instead demanding of ourselves that we face reality and see it for what it really is, learn from it, expand our reality to include it, and grow. This growth delivers freedom, choice, and power through an expanded ability to handle what comes our way.

Here’s an example

When you are aware of the Responsibility Process and you catch yourself blaming, you might stop blaming and examine your thoughts until you can find a responsible and resourceful mindset from which to solve the problem. This happens in meetings and high-performing teams all the time when people are aware of their mind’s Responsibility Process.

How about a more challenging example

Here’s one that’s not so fast or easy, but the growth is very much worthwhile: I was mentoring a leader who was feeling over-committed. Between her full-time job with multiple large projects, her numerous regional and national board appointments, and her family, she was not able to meet her commitments.

She felt bad (shame) and listed some shoulds (note: A “should” is a piece of advice that might move us off of  Shame to Obligation. I.e., we feel bad for having the problem and believe that taking action will make us feel better so we search for advice from ourself or others.): I should prioritize, I should not volunteer so much, I should recruit others and motivate them to do these activities for me.

I didn’t comment on any of the self-advice my client gave herself. I saw them as ways to cope with Shame and Obligation. Instead, I asked her permission to poke her a little bit (i.e., help her see more clearly, through confronting the truth). She granted me permission, and I gently asked her two questions:

  1. How does it serve you to commit to more than you can do? and then
  2. What do you want about this situation?

These questions applied the keys that unlock Responsibility

  • Intention
  • Awareness
  • Confront

I knew that the Responsibility Process only works when self-applied, so I wanted to ask her questions that would get her to look beyond the Shame and Obligation to the freedom, power, and choice of Responsibility.

What she wanted was to add value and make a difference. And she realized that when she overcommits, she can’t add sufficient value to anyone or anything.

Is it really this simple?

No, she’s not totally resolved and done with this situation. But she is more clear about her intention, she is more aware of her role in the problem, and she is confronting the truth instead of merely coping with her anxiety about it.

And all of that will lead to growth as a person and as a leader.

Practice Tip

Select one of your stressors, or one coping habit, and commit to really examine it. Just invite yourself to face it and examine it for new truths — for something you haven’t seen before. Continue until you break through to a new understanding and ability to face that challenge more easily and directly. Then do it again, and again, and again.

Now that’s accessing and applying your Leadership Gift! You can do it; anyone can.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide. Master leadership or build a responsible team (or family) with The Leadership Gift Program for Leaders.

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5 Responses to Do You Have The Leadership Gift Part 2: Cope or Grow?

  1. Christopher,
    Great post. It is so true. I love how you use the three: Intention, Awareness, and Confront as areas of understanding of ourselves.

    I was talking about the responsibility model with a friend this weekend. We were discussing how she should respond to a group of peers who were not pulling their weight in the team. We also discussed the mental models they were likely using (denial, lay-blame) to Justify why they were not pulling their weight.

    I am going to go back to her and tell her about using the Intention, Awareness, Confront model.

    thanks again Christopher
    Joseph Flahiff

  2. Loved this post Christopher. Very much needed in today’s overcharged and calendar full world. Circumstances happen, it’s called life, and we can choose either student or victim. What happens is irrelevant; how we respond to it is where we truly find ourselves.

  3. Great post Christopher. I’m going to catch myself next time I say, “I should”

    Furthermore, when you’re talented, everyone wants more of your time. That’s why the following statement is an important lesson for us all . . . “She realized that when she overcommits, she can’t add sufficient value to anyone or anything.”

    Thanks again for sharing Christopher!


  4. Joseph, I hope she finds the help she’s looking for.

    Chrisopher, I know you hear me talk about behavior modeling over process modeling in leadership groups. The C-Suite in particular is the alter-ego of a business. The business has a collective personality and does suffer from it’s own psychosis when leadership as a group isn’t focused or health.

    I wrote a model call Awareness, Interaction, Contribution that is a business responsibility model for Not-For-Profit Board Members. We used this with IRAUG NFP 2009 and put it on the wall for the world to see. This model as adapted from my Awareness, Integration, Contribution model for commercial business. You can see this graphic here.

    When your schools of thought tangent, I tend to spend the rest of the day talking about it. if only everyday started this way…

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