I consider myself an excellent listener, but there’s one area in my life where I have a hard time hearing what others say — and a few months ago, a friend put my willingness to hear to the test.
She sat me down and insisted that I not brush off or ignore what she had to say because she had something important to tell me: that I’ve helped her in unique ways, that I’ve shown up for her unlike anyone else ever has, and that it meant so much to her.
I could barely hear her.
That’s because the instant she started complimenting me, I reacted instinctively. I reached for my trusty earmuffs and clamped them down tight, screening every positive thing my friend was saying through a filter of comparisonitis.
Cue the Doubts Creeping In
When I first began to think about, talk about, and write about leadership I had so many doubts. “Who am I to talk about this?” I asked myself.
I’m not a leader, I thought — not like my husband Charlie, who shows up with his military training and easy confidence. I’m not a leader, like the traditionally assertive, bold leaders I see reflected in the media all around me.
When I looked at leaders I admired, I couldn’t help but think I could never do it that way. I don’t have that skill set, I don’t have that capacity. I’m not that smart, I’m not that fast, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not.
Am I Even a Leader?
I’ve spent my entire life comparing myself to other people, and I know I’m not alone — particularly among heart-based leaders.
Many of us are very empathetic and “other” focused. We’ve been raised to be humble, and downplay our accomplishments. And in many cases, we’ve been taught that the gifts we bring to the table — whole-hearted listening, vulnerability, community building, quiet certainty — aren’t “real” leadership skills.
Is it any wonder so many of us struggle with comparisonitis?
Every single human has a different DNA, a different genetic makeup, and a different set of life experiences. When you add that all together, it’s almost comical to try measuring our leadership styles against each other.
The things that make you a good leader will be different from mine — and to become a truly great leader you need to learn to embrace them on a heart and soul level.
However, it can also be incredibly hard to see those strengths on your own.
It’s Time to Take Off the Earmuffs
In team meetings, I’m not necessarily the one at the head of the table — instead, I’m generally focusing on making sure everyone is accounted for and has had a chance to talk, ask questions, and make their opinions known.
As a leader, I know that my strength is in helping my team make their voices heard. Yet I struggled to hear when my friend was trying to compliment me.
Accepting the truth of my friend’s compliment was an exercise in remaining open. In taking off the earmuffs of comparisonitis, removing my trusty armor, and truly listening to her without shutting her down or brushing her words off.
I challenge you to do the same next time someone offers you a gift like that.
Instead of filtering it through comparisons, learn from what they’re trying to tell you. Feel it in your soul, and you’ll be one step further on an inner journey to becoming the heart-based leader the world needs you to be.