For the last several years in my leadership roles, I have always enacted and espoused a solidified grouping of values connected with my leadership identity. A prominent value in that grouping has consistently been a drive to minimize my ego in my interactions with staff and students. It is a lesson that I was taught very early on by faculty in my graduate preparation program, and by a variety of mentors during the early part of my career. I believe I have always done an effective job of doing this throughout the majority of my career. I have also been very intentional about checking in with my past supervisors and fellow colleagues about my specific leadership styles ensuring that I was maintaining an optimal balance in this regard.
Lately, however, I’ve begun to question this aspect of my leadership style. In anonymous feedback opportunities I have offered my staff over the last two years, I’ve read a few remarks that questioned if my ego became prevalent in various decisions I made as a leader. Each time I read these remarks, I was obviously taken aback with how important this value is to me. Initially, I dismissed it as simple misconceptions and opinions. I knew who I was, so why should I worry about erroneous feedback? I then started to think more critically about the feedback and my initial reactions.
I ultimately concluded that it was the topic of the feedback that impacted how I was receiving it. At some level I was becoming exactly what I told countless staff members and for that matter, students, over the years not to be: the egomaniac. Initially, I was shocked and concerned about this. I then realized this was the same learning experience that staff and students I had worked with through the years had gone through. Why was I any different than them? Wasn’t I a learner in life the same way they were in those moments? Wasn’t I allowed to have moments of failure in the same regard?
As leaders, we all continuously learn lessons as we progress through our development. Those lessons can come from a variety of sources and experiences. This experience forced me to once again be reminded of one of my most important teachers: the staff that I lead on a continuous basis. Something tells me that this is not the last time I will learn this lesson. I think that is probably a good thing. There is something about humble pie that makes us all better people and professionals!