Tag Archives: Lifelong Learner

Monday Morning Moment – Leading When You’re In Over Your Head – Cultivating a Thick Skin and Tender Heart

Photo Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

First, a leader has to recognize he/she is in over their heads. This often doesn’t happen because it’s incredibly threatening to a person’s ego as well as the ability to execute responsibilities. If a leader can wrestle with the actuality that her/his job is beyond her ability today, then there is great hope both for the leader and those under their authority.

Carey Nieuwhof and Eric Geiger are two leaders I follow on Twitter. They write extensively on leadership and have that platform because they are life-long learners and savvy watchers of life. They have “skin in the game” and have learned how to lead and continue to do so. No finished product here which gives them even more credibility to be heard.

I want to briefly summarize a couple of their articles and then point you to read the rest. If you are the leader in over your head, you will find help here. The same goes for those under the lead of a struggling leader.

Some time ago, I bookmarked Carey Nieuwhof’s piece How To Lead When You’re In Over Your Head. He lists out 5 steps to dealing with that reality and I have posted them below. If they seem simplistic to you, they are simple but not easy.

  1. Stay humble.
  2. Get a great team around you who are smarter than you.
  3. Become an avid learner.
  4. Grow comfortable saying “I don’t know”.
  5. Trust God.

There is no shame in finding yourself in over your head if you face it and push through it. No shame.

We often default to focusing on our strengths, and lead out of them instead of dealing with the weaknesses taking us down…to our detriment and that of the organization. You know that adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Well, the leader in over her head can flip that on its head by breaking what’s not broken.

Read Nieuwhof’s coaching on his 5 steps. What will help any of us to be successful in dealing with a situation where we’re in over our heads is to do heart and skin checks. I say this after reading Eric Geiger’s article Thick Skin, Tender Hearts, and Four Types of Leaders.

Photo Credit: Eric Geiger

Every one of us in leadership can work through Geiger’s diagnostic and check the tenderness of our hearts and the thickness of our skin.

For those dealing with the ripple effect of the leader reeking unchecked havoc in the workplace – either because she seemingly doesn’t really care or cares more about her own ego, identity, or position than she does her employees or customers. This is a sometime reality in the workplace. Don’t be pulled down or disqualified yourself by this. It could change at any time.

You may think there’s nothing you can do about such a situation and you may be right, to a degree. However, you are completely empowered to check your own heart and skin. Has your heart grown calloused in a difficult work situation? Has your skin grown thin where you take things too personally?

Geiger, as with Nieuwhof, gives great counsel on how to cultivate that tender heart and thick skin. You may not agree with all of what both writers say (they speak from a Christian worldview). However, they have wisdom for anyone who wants to grow professionally and lead well in whatever situation you find yourself.