Articles Coaching Leadership

What do you want to be?

Tying yourself up
Tying yourself up

I attended the CultureSync Leadership Unleashed event last November and experienced three challenging days filled with interesting conversations but some of the biggest lessons I learned actually came outside of the event.  Let me share some of these lessons through a story.

I work as a senior consultant in a company that helps organization adopt agile practices.  As part of my work, I coach teams, prepare various reports for customers and also prepare training materials.  Some people would say I am demanding and that I put the quality bar very high for myself as well as the people around me.  This is all fine and dandy when the demands are on myself but it creates painful moments for my colleagues when they do not meet the quality bar.

One evening during the Leadership Unleashed event, I shared my frustration with David, my triad mate, who listened attentively and asked me what I was doing about this.  I expressed my frustration around explaining myself all the time and shared my solution to stop investing so much effort until the team decided to raise their game.

David asked me: “So here’s the thing Steffan…  How will they get where you want if you stop helping them?”

I replied sheepishly: “But they just don’t get it…  I am getting sick of this…”

“I don’t understand Steffan, explain where is the leadership in what you are doing?  Where is the courage?  You are doing what is easy!” replied David, shaking me up.  “Let’s do a quick transparency check Stef.  Let me tell you something, you are not being a leader — you are being a pussy…  You are a machine, doing that high quality stuff is nothing to you, it’s easy for you.  Just waiting for them to discover greatness while you look from above is not leadership.“

At this point, I was really rattled because I did not expect David to challenge me like that but I sat there and took my beating while letting everything sink in.

“David, you do not understand…  It is a waste of effort fighting that battle, they do not want to change.”

“Steffan, did you have actual conversations about this with your team mates or do you just get mad?”

“Well… but…”

“But it’s hard?  Tough shit Sherlock…  That is life!  Let me tell you this one more time, just so that it can sink in.  YOU ARE NOT SHOWING ANY COURAGE.  YOU ARE NOT BEING A LEADER.  YOU ARE BEING A P-U-S-S-Y!  You should really stop that, it really does not seem to be working out for you!”

That night left me lots to think about.  I started having those awkward conversations and realized they were not always so awkward.  I learned sometimes people do not know what they do not know and by sharing reasons and intent, it helped people discover some of these things on their own.

I also learned I needed to take more time to listen to their fears and concerns and make sure I could reassure them when necessary or at a minimum, make sure they understood my intentions.  I found that I got a whole lot more traction with people this way and changes started to appear around me.

The other piece of courage was David challenging me on my behavior.  Leadership is also about telling people what they do not want to hear because sometimes they really need to hear it.

So tell me, are you showing courage and being leader or are you just being a pussy?

** Note: This is the second version of this blog post.  My fellow blogger Carrie challenged me to really own what happened that night and not hide behind a story.  I decided to take her up on it…  Thanks Carrie!**

About the author


Steffan Surdek

I am a leadership development coach, corporate trainer, professional speaker and author. I believe in contributing to a greater cause, making a difference and adding value.

Feel free to reach out, I would love to hear about the leadership challenges in your organization!

1 Comment

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  • So as the man who challenged my buddy Stef to stop being a pussy, I feel it’s only fair to add the third piece of the triadic puzzle. Don’t try this at home without:
    *a relationship built on trust
    *a genuine care and love for your buddy
    *being present enough to know what your buddy needs and what he doesn’t, when
    *and ask permission first
    Secondly, I knew Stef was in his heart a courageous committed leader and one of the most caring and strong men I know. I knew he yearned to do the right thing by his colleagues and needed the veneer that was now transparent to him to be broken. Such break-downs become break-throughs when connected to your heart.
    The fact that Stef is sharing this is the best example of what my words can’t capture, as I’m sure his story conveys. He does this because of his commitment to provoking leadership. An apt start to this web experiment of the same name.