Earlier year, I decided to speak up and write more often about leadership.

Previously I’ve been a bit reluctant to add to the myriad of books, blogs, podcasts and research reports in the world. But I think there’s a gap in the conversation about the deceptively hard world of being a leader at a human level.

In my opinion, there’s too much philosophising and theorising about leadership making it hard for people to navigate the practicalities. You know, what it actually takes to navigate the inner workings and outer mechanics of leading yourself and other people.

So, having decided to create more candid conversations about leadership for humans I found myself finger on the keyboard embracing a bad case of imposter’s syndrome and a challenging case of writer’s block.

It’s been a painful few months.

Conventional wisdom says to sort out your frailties then you’ll be good to go. But I say don’t. Don’t sort out your frailties first that is. 

It’s the act of making stuff happen that really puts those frailties to rest. Actually doing stuff is the perfect distraction to our overly imaginative mind.

The human mind is designed to protect us at all costs. To de-risk what we do. Our imagination is a finely tuned fear making machine that talks us out of doing anything we might have a grain of doubt about. It soothes our worry brilliantly giving us permission to give up. To not bother. 

And as a bonus, the voice in our head gives us excuse after excuse to use on ourselves. 

How often has your highly creative mind talked you out of a perfectly good idea or intention? That sneaky voice in your head that tells you to hang on, to hang back, to play it safe?

When we listen to ourselves too hard or too often we stop doing anything at all. We delay and procrastinate until the opportunity is gone. How convenient? How frustrating? How self-stress inducing?

How confidence-sapping is all that emotional baggage we carry around?

But when we let ourselves off the hook we’re left luxuriating in our comfort zone. That cosy place where we can lock out our worries for another day. 

Until of course reality kicks in and we realise we are back where we started. No progress made and our human frailties intact. Perfect conditions to mentally brutalise ourselves all over again. 

The mind is a powerful thing that’s not as useful as we’d like it to be. But when you lead your mind instead of following your natural instincts, almost anything is possible.

When our imagination stokes fear and loathing, we can reset our frame of mind to generate positive optimism and switch anxiety to confidence. When we’re feeling weak and vulnerable, we muster our courage and get on with the work anyway.

How clever we are if we choose to lead. 

I know as I waited until everything is clear in my head before I start writing, nothing got written. My ideas and opinion were self-silenced. 

Similarly, when I listened to my inner world view that there’s already enough written in the world by leadership coaches, it did help me and frustrated my ambition to help people who struggle to do something hard that they don’t feel well equipped to do. 

As much as people turn to me as an expert in leadership, I’m as human as anyone with my own mind playing games with me.  Believe me, the sense of irony is not lost on me.

If leadership is anything it’s about embracing who you are as a human being and making choices. Leadership is the difference between staying cosy in your comfort zone or hauling yourself off the metaphorical sofa and into action. 

I’m not saying any of this is easy but the better we know ourselves and lead ourselves the better it is for everyone.

And, certainly is for your psyche.

There’s so much more to explore about how mindset, and other human characteristics, affects how we create for others. 

It’s why I’m backing festivals like MOD, Mindset of Design. This is a weeklong festival of events, workshops and networking exploring the what it truly takes to be human-centric when you’re designing for others.

Whether you’re leading other people, designing products and services or starting new ventures that help people, it all starts with what’s going on in the mind. Your mind, and the minds of the people you aim to serve.

So if you’re in in the business of making change happen, starting from scratch or wrangling technology to work better for people MOD is the place to bring a human-centric view to your work. 

My colleague Sarb Johal and I going to be there co-creating conversations about embracing leadership for humans. 

There are also other fascinating sessions for you to think more deeply about being human, such as:

  • Listening – the missing half of the conversation
  • Play with purpose
  • Gaining self-mastery
  • Creative Resilience
  • Storytelling with purpose.

Come to Wellington and join the conversation. Find like-minds and people who think very differently to you.

And, if you can’t make it to Wellington in November, I’ll be back sharing what I learned so we can all work better by embracing our human-side.