The release of Bowe Bergdahl has been a hot item in the news recently. And I’ve had several interviews on regional and national news media about what it’s like to come home after being a POW for five and a half years.
Our capture situation in Vietnam was quite different and my time in solitary confinement was short, so I’ve focused more on what it was like to return after years of poor diet, little news, periodic abuse, and isolation from family and society.
I’m glad Bowe Bergdahl is back home, and I know his family is relieved. Time will tell what the military sorts out about his capture and military service, but the discussion about him, as well as the annual celebration of our nation’s independence, has reminded me of why I’m so passionate about helping free the captives in my consulting, writing, and speaking.
What’s Holding You Back?
I’m enthusiastically focused on helping people find the freedom and courage to grow by breaking away from the shackles that are holding them back.
My observation and experience over the last forty years training hundreds of military and business leaders is that we all have mindsets, habits, and behaviors that inhibit our growth as individuals and leaders.
“We all need more freedom from these barriers, and many of these shackles come from our feelings of insecurity.”
Getting In the Way
Consider the two responses below that cause us to get in our own way, restrict us from achieving our potential, and yield major external repercussions.
1) False pride maximizes self and minimizes others.
This unhealthy response to our insecurity is a mindset of superiority that manifests as an ego-protecting pose typically based in domination, control, and perfectionism rather than authentic humility.
False pride leads to self-centeredness and makes it difficult to acknowledge the good ideas and achievements of others.
Leaders imprisoned by their ego often feel threatened by those who don’t agree with them, and soon there’s a graveyard nearby where they bury unwelcome messengers whose words of truth shine light on their dark side.
2) False humility minimizes self and maximizes others.
Some people respond to their insecurities by going in the opposite direction—living in a negative self-image in one or more areas. Their negative personal perception produces a mindset that has boxed them inside limits that are more akin to self-imposed incarceration.
You may be thinking, “I can see this in others and maybe a little in myself, but it sounds pretty deep and psychological. How can we free ourselves and others from these negative patterns?”
“Professional help will be needed for some situations, but much can be done by remembering a single principle—the truth can set you free. The problem here is that a lie is operating rather than the truth.”
Identifying the Lie
In the 2011 movie, The Help, actress Viola Davis’ character lovingly reminds Mae Mobley, a little two-year old, about her self-worth. Take a moment and watch this…
If you think about it, you’ll see that both of the career/life inhibiting responses above are undergirded by a lie about our self-worth. It’s true that we’re all flawed, but we have great value, too. It requires a healthy balance to live with these two paradoxical statements and resist living the lie of low self-worth.
“Notice that both the responses above are grounded in fear—the emotion that exercises powerful control over our hearts and minds.”
Gaining Freedom for Yourself and Others
Knowing and believing the truth about ourselves is the antidote to lies and opens the pathway to freedom. Here are two ways to embrace the truth –
1) Welcome courageous confrontation.
Remember that all development begins with self-awareness. Being honest with ourselves can be difficult because denial and rationalization are often normal protective strategies for a pose.
Do you have the courage to ask someone for honest feedback—either one-on-one or by having a coach or consultant do a 360 assessment on your leadership behaviors?
Be willing to confront yourself and break free from the lies holding you back. Likewise, it can be very rewarding to be a warrior for freedom for others. Confront the next generation of leaders to help them assess where they need to break free too.
2) Give and accept courageous support and affirmation.
Those locked in false humility need truth of their value and potential.As their leader, peer, or friend, we can be the bearers of that good news.
Years ago, I remember being affirmed by two friends about my value and worth. Initially I resisted and tried to refute their comments, but their sincerity and their personal loyalty convinced me that my perspective was a lie.
They were revealing truth that I needed in order to move to the next level in my leadership. It was powerful and liberating to have that courageous support and affirmation.
In this season of celebrating freedom and independence, the key message here is that honorable leaders acquire the courage to confront and be confronted and the courage to support and affirm. Both approaches are needed to bring the truth that can set ourselves and others free to grow to the next level of performance.
Do you have the courage and humility to find out the truth about your leadership and then encourage others in their leadership? Your growth has much larger implications than you can imagine. In part 2 of this article we’ll explore the broad societal possibilities when we have a nation full of confident, valuable leaders.
Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today here!
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders™
Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter
His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.