Good Leaders Know You Can’t Fight Reality
Something very cool happened for me this week. An article I wrote, on a topic I care deeply about, struck a chord with people around the world.
My latest article for Harvard Business Review was #1 on the most popular list and among the most read this week. While I’m personally proud of the article’s success, it’s also an indication of the relevance of the topic.
The article is important to me, and the concept has been a long time in the making.
For years I’ve struggled with the idea of acceptance, particularly about things which seem unacceptable. Without going too deep into my personal history, I’ll just share that my early life circumstances were extremely traumatic, even considered unacceptable. In therapy, I stumbled upon this idea of Radical Acceptance
. I don’t particularly like the term (think Zen), but it resonated with me, even though it is extremely difficult.
Over time, I began to notice how important acceptance is for strong leadership. Specifically, at the root of many bad leadership decisions is an unwillingness to accept reality. As a result, I’ve seen a spectrum of poor behavior by leaders – aggression, avoidance, tantrums, yelling, and shutting people out. All these situations are easily traced to a leader who couldn’t accept the situation, an outcome, or people as they are.
It’s easy to confuse this idea of acceptance with what it is not. It unequivocally does not mean that one must accept everything as is and that change is not possible. It isn’t blind approval, and it doesn’t mean being resistant to change. It simply recognizes that fighting with or rejecting reality won’t change it. That just squanders time, effort, energy and focus that can be harnessed for leading productive change. In the article, I quote Carl Jung “We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”
In the article there was no room, nor was it the appropriate forum, to share context or personal background. But in this newsletter, I wanted to take a moment to share that context with you, I hope you find it to be valuable.