Leadership and Possibility
by Michéle Roy
Today, I would like to explore how leaders experience possibility, and use it to guide their teams. Leaders spend much of their thinking time in the realm of possibility, thinking about and asking themselves what is possible? “If we achieve this, what will be possible?” Creating possibility, asks leaders to travel through uncertainty, to get to possibility. Leaders coach and facilitate their team to think beyond the current reality and anticipate the future, in order to sustain and grow their business. For some, the risk of uncertainty is too great and the potential that lies in possibility is missed, or at least not encouraged. The uncertainty is often represented by doubt in people’s capabilities, available resources and a leader’s own capacity to sustain the resiliency, while they travel the road of uncertainty to possibility. They often ask themselves “I can’t do that, what will my team think?” “What if I’m wrong?” “How will it impact me and the people I care about?” These are all valid questions and are naturally asked as we pass through uncertainty. However, these questions point to self–doubt, internal resistance and fear. The responses to these questions are important, however if we dwell too long in analysis, the potential of possibility is lost and the opportunity quickly shrinks, followed by a fixed mindset of control.
Our brains like, and seek out predictability, and to create a better future requires us to overcome the mind’s tendency to live in certainty, and to become uncomfortable, moving beyond the known into the unknown. This is why leaders who can create compelling and collective reasons to step into the future, inspire others to take the risk into possibility.
Coaching leaders through uncertainty and supporting them in realizing the possibility they see for themselves and their teams, is inspiring. We can’t deny the feeling of risk is lively when moving towards possibility. I have never had a leader say to me “I shouldn’t have started down this path”, or “I wished I hadn’t taken that step”. Inevitably they say, “I wish I had done this earlier”, or “I would never have thought this was possible”.
Yes, it feels vulnerable when we take a risk, we feel exposed to other’s judgement's and to our own. Remembering that we can’t do it alone is critical to our success. There were many times in my own life when I was challenged to live into possibility, vulnerability and not resist the dynamism of life - when I traveled across the country to a new career, when our daughter left the house at 14, and saying goodbye to my mother a few days before the end of her life of 97 years.
I believe vulnerability is a key leadership skill, and when you add discipline to vulnerability, you get resiliency. Vulnerability touches into our humanity, and when revealed, reminds us all of who we are, what we have lived, and confirms our capacity to live with uncertainty. When our daughter left us at that early age, we imagined the worst, and instead of keeping the worst in our minds, we kept in constant contact with her. We took on a disciplined approach in reaching out to her. Not the kind of discipline that forces obedience to a rule or standard. The less common meaning of discipline, which is the spiritual meaning of discipline, where your actions become a conscious practice in expressing your values. Living from spiritual discipline and sharing our vulnerability with others, reminds us we are in community and builds our awareness of our true capacity to act even when uncertain. The spiritual discipline to take action, and the vulnerability to live a life with great meaning, enables and inspires us to lead others into possibility.
Some coaching questions to ask yourself and your team:
- Given what has happened, what is possible now?
- What can we do together, that we can’t do alone?
- What will things look like, after we have been successful?