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Leadership Thought #295 – Embrace Being Human

February 6, 2012

Free Man in Red Button Up Shirt Stock Photo

We are all human and everything that means. There is no such thing as the perfect leader or person.  There have certainly been great leaders throughout history who left an indelible impact on their company, community, country, or mankind.  However, no one is perfect.  We all have strengths as well as weaknesses.  We all thrive in certain situations and struggle in others. We all have emotional trigger points.  We all have good days and bad days – it is just part of being human.

Abraham Lincoln struggled with depression his whole life and often took things too personally.  George Washington found communicating and connecting with others difficult and often appeared emotionally distant.  Gandhi had a tough time seeing the other person’s point of view and was stubborn to a fault.  No one could argue that these men accomplished remarkable things, but our tendency is to put them on a pedestal and forget that as fellow human beings they were flawed like everyone else.  They just were able to overcome these personal liabilities by staying focused on the big picture, accepting their flaws, embracing their strengths, a commitment to personal growth and learning, diligent daily effort, establishing supportive relationships, and persevering during difficult times.  They were also naturally gifted in ways many of us aren’t.

I often worry about people who read too many self-help books and/or set lofty expectations for themselves based on what others think or espouse.   Many of these books or speakers attempt to create and communicate a common definition of success and/or happiness that resonates with everyone and is applicable in all situations.  They also tend to offer flawed comparisons of reality and potential. It’s as if who you are doesn’t matter and that everyone is equally capable in all situations and that there is a proven recipe for managing all life has in store for you.  Sorry, to burst the bubble, but most of us are not Lincoln, Washington, or Gandhi.  Many of us are just everyday people trying to get through the day and create a sense of meaning in our lives.

The reality is that you are purely you and everything this means good, bad, or otherwise.  You will sometimes fail despite your best efforts.  You won’t always show up with your “A game” and may not connect with everyone all the time.  You will waver in your capacity to manage stress and motivate others.  You will have moments where you are “in the zone” and others where you feel incompetent.  You will struggle with self-doubt and worry.  Sometimes you will be easily understood and other times it will be hard to get your point across.  You will enjoy your work and sometimes dislike it. You are a natural-born leader or follower.  You will feel happy.  You will feel sad.  You will feel indifferent.

Not everyone is meant for greatness, but we can all live a great life.  Everyone can find meaning in his or her life by accepting who they are and embracing this fact. They can then work on being the best person they can be, genuinely caring about the needs of others, working toward a higher purpose (whatever that may be), appreciating and enjoying the good times, and persevering when times get hard, or you get in your own way.  The trick is to wake up every day and do the best you can under the circumstances and don’t be too hard on yourself when things don’t go your way – learn from it.  Be gentle and forgiving with yourself when you need to be.  Embrace being human; it will make life easier.