Leadership mistake: Worrying about the wrong things

Leadership often begins with vision, a description of where you’re leading people. It takes courage to cast vision because: what if you’re wrong?

Irresponsible leaders couldn’t care less. They’ll say whatever it takes to get what they want in the moment.

But I’m guessing that many people are overly cautious about sharing what they see.

So here’s two mistakes I’ve made regarding vision to encourage you to voice your vision to others (if you’re like me).

Mistake #1. Worrying about naysayers instead of finding and investing in soulmates.

Whether it’s due to insecurity or upbringing, I’ve always been driven to convince people about my ideas.

I think through every possible objection and summon rigorous counterarguments before anyone brings them up. I want to be right.

Unfortunately, such intellectual effort is not only exhausting, but often unnecessary (and paralyzing). I end up communicating with people under the assumption that they will reject me. I assume they are looking for a reason to say, “No” to my ideas.

The fear of rejection makes it so tiring it’s easier to not even try.

I don’t publish the blogpost. I don’t send the message. I don’t deliver the presentation.

That’s not leadership.

Correction: Focus on finding and investing in “soulmates” instead of worrying about “naysayers”.

“Soulmates” want to understand and strengthen your vision. They want to be persuaded and even their most critical feedback is for good.

“Naysayers” for whatever reason want to tear your vision apart. Don’t worry about them. Circumstances outside your control have to change for them to be open to your vision.

So make your pitch and discern if the person you’re talking to is a “soulmate”, “naysayer” or something else. Invest in your “soulmates”.

Mistake #2. Worrying that the vision is too big to achieve instead of inviting others to think big with me.

My school system (Seattle Public Schools / University of Washington in the 1990s-2000s) primarily rewarded students for being self-reliant. You do your homework, take your tests and get graded individually.

Unfortunately big visions are typically group projects. You can never personally get all the skills, resources and time required to make a big vision come true.

Since self-improvement and individual achievement have long been my main source of positive reinforcement, it’s difficult to ask for help and invite people to join me. Perhaps I’m scared of the risk & responsibility.

So I naturally think small. I limit my vision to what I can personally achieve. And guess what: that’s really sad because the big vision is what can really enrich people’s lives.

That’s not leadership.

Correction: Clarify your vision by ignoring your personal means, resources and know-how. Think big and describe the vision in sufficient, inspiring detail so that others want it too.

Then work backwards.

What does the full vision require? What is the best contribution you can personally make? What do you need others to do? What can you achieve immediately? What can you achieve in a decade?

By not limiting your vision to your personal capacity, you lead others into previously unimaginable possibilities.

PS, I suppose it’s time for me to take my own advice :). I’m still discerning the big vision for TheoTech, but invite you to join our Facebook group if you want to be part of the journey. You can also follow our story on YouTube / Podcast sites.