How to manage your conscience as a People Pleasing leader when you need to lead?

Many people I work with, new leaders, seasoned leaders, and executives alike, often struggle with the idea of providing constructive feedback. This often comes up when the leader self-identifies as a servant leader. It also comes up when constructive feedback is about what the leader does not feel they are doing well themselves. A third way it shows up is when the leader is worried about the repercussions of providing challenging feedback to somebody they see as having political power within the organization and with external stakeholders.

I’ve seen many spend much of their precious time and energy worrying about potential negative impacts and, in effect, getting stuck in analysis paralysis. While it is important to understand the potential impact, it is equally important to understand the impact of not doing anything about the negative behaviours on others and the dynamics of the team or organization.

What does it mean to be a Servant Leader?

Being a Servant Leader or being empathetic does not mean being a People Pleaser, and this is where I see an important distinction. If I, as a leader, think that pleasing people and making them happy is my role, then I am not equipped to lead them. Leading them takes courage. Leading them means not being popular all of the time. Leading them means giving them the gift of feedback that could positively benefit them in their role and in their life and also benefit others around them.

A Servant Leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong (Greenleaf). As stated by its founder, Robert K. Greenleaf, a Servant Leader should be focused on, “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”[3]

People do not grow when we are pleasing them. We actually serve them by helping them notice what they are doing well, supporting them to leverage their strengths, being honest about what you are seeing as their blind spots or areas for growth, and supporting them to grown in those areas. It is not doing their growth work for them, which is impossible, not making things all okay. It is about coaching them to meet their potential, create engagement, build and sustain productivity, and create an environment for innovation.

People Pleasing.

People Pleasing does not take you off of the hot seat of finding yourself in vulnerable situations either. A People Pleasing leader will find themselves in the mire, in the midst of drama, and stymied by trying to find a solution that will work for everyone. While this is something to aspire to much of the time, it is not something that works when feedback needs to be provided or clear action needs to be taken.

Knowing this distinction, I hope you can see the importance of clear feedback and honesty in true Servant Leadership. You can work on your feedback and coaching skills so that this becomes easier over time. Step by step, you can build your skills and applied toolkit, increase your capabilities, and step into awkward situations sooner and towards more positive outcomes for all involved.

How do you feel when you know you have to have an awkward conversation with one of your team members? Interested in learning more about how coaching can help you to manage the underlying potentially limiting beliefs and fears? I’d love to have a conversation with you. Book a complimentary 30-minute Exploration Call with me to explore some options, the link is in the comments below.

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