Leaders can find themselves in a tough place when we don't admit that we need. Our companies, sanity, livelihood, health, relationships, and employees can suffer as a result. We need more leaders in need, who freely admit that need, and then live deeply in meaningful community with their teams and others to have those needs met.
I've found myself more in need this past year - and definitely these past few weeks - than at any other time in my life. Slowly, I'm learning that needing things, resources, people, help, ideas, comfort, and confidence is okay. It's normal, it's human, and it's a perfectly acceptable expectation. I'm by no means the expert on vocalizing need, but I'm finding more and more that when I share with a colleague or friend what my physical, emotional, or mental needs are in any given moment, my work and my life stand to benefit.
Of course, as the leader of a fast-growing company, this is not routine for me. Typically, I'm the one who asks almost daily to various team members, "What do you need?" I see my role as CEO to give them the tools they need to do their jobs well, to thrive in our work environment, and to create a life and a future for us and themselves that they are excited about.
Many times, I'm able to meet these needs, especially when those needs are reasonable to attain. Need more business cards, a newly designed promotional piece, sales data, marketing ideas? Done. I'm on it.
My fear has always been that if I'm to supply and meet needs, then I can't have any myself. Out of my abundance comes the supply for others. What a silly rationale, I'm learning.
A favorite poem of mine is The Creation by James Weldon Johnson. I'm hooked from the opening:
"And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I’ll make me a world."
I like a god who's lonely. That's a god who needs, a god who is vulnerable. I can relate to that, to a giver who finds himself in need.
When a leader is willing to sit with his or her need, to admit their inability to do it all, and then to confess that very human condition to someone, I've found that magical things can happen. Your needs can be met. Your emotional state can be improved. Others can rally and come to your aid. People will be willing to help you. You'll find success more quickly. You'll become a better leader.
I've been doing these two things of late when I find myself in need. It's a new discipline for me and I don't always get it right, like learning a tricky yoga pose or reading something by ee cummings. Keep at it - you'll get it soon.
Ask - early and often
I'm learning to ask for help more. Help with a work problem. Help processing a feeling. Help to make an introduction. Help to expand a market. Help to clean up a mess. Help to dream again. Asking for help puts yourself out there (the person you're asking could reject your request), but more often than not, those you ask will be more than happy to assist. You'll get done what needs doing much more quickly (and accurately and efficiently) and in a better way than had you defaulted to grinding it out solo, full of pride, scared to admit your needs.
Try something new
To remind myself that not being good at something is okay, I'll try on a new habit or hobby time and again. These days I'm trying my hand at poetry writing (even though I'm promoting vulnerability here, rest assured I won't be sharing these creations with you). I'm not good, but I'm learning. The more I write, the more confident I become. The more poetry I read, the more inspired I feel. Needs are being met, confidence is being gained, and I continue to understand that the need state is not the final state. Needs are temporary because they can be met, over and over again. You may need something now, but you won't need it forever.
Leaders who need are leaders that others will be drawn to. Leaders who need are human, capable of connection and trust, admiration and inspiration. These are the leaders we all need - not perfectly qualified robots who can't teach us anything about being normal in a very real and scary world.
When we're willing to become leaders who need, other people will need us, too.