Learn from the unique


One of the most common questions I get from the leaders I work with is “Are others (in my company or organization, at my level, in my industry) dealing with the same issues I’m trying to work through?”.

My honest answer to them is “Yes. You are like others in many ways, and the dilemmas, situations and ways of leading can be very similar to other good leaders’”. I love that “yes”. It’s our common dilemmas, our shared passions, and our sameness that draws us together. There is comfort in knowing that others are walking the same path we walk.

However, it is the uniqueness in each person, context, and situation that stimulates our learning. I also love that. No two people and no two situations are exactly the same even if there are commonalities in them. And rather than reject that uniqueness as a difference that might disturb us, we should be seeking it out, turning it over in our thoughts and figuring out what it means.

There are subtle nuances that each person experiences and expresses in their leadership journey based on their own background, mindset and values. These should be source of fascination and curiosity. Although the things we share that are the same may provide us with some security, it’s the true distinctiveness of each person’s experiences and expression that just may provide us with our greatest growth as human beings and as leaders. And that growth won’t happen without some effort on your part:

Reach out: You are very busy trying to achieve something; I understand that. However, you might be leaving something out of your equation for success. When was the last time you had a stimulating, heart to heart conversation with someone who had a unique situation or an effective way of leading that might be very different from yours? Look around you. Who’s doing something that makes you curious? Reach out to them and ask for some time to hear their story.

Ask about what makes you curious: Ask them about what they’re doing that you are curious about. Be open, respectful and interested. Listen well, because this is about your learning. Turn off your “inner judge” and see if their unique ways of handling things might be something you are interested in trying. How might it help you?

If the shoe fits, try it: What have you got to lose? Someone else’s unique approach might work for you, but you won’t know until you try it. Does it feel like something has shifted for you in a good way when you try this new approach? If so, you might want to make it your own, in your own unique way. If not, you’ve still learned something.

There is no one way to lead others. The way someone leads is the result of their distinctive personality, background, beliefs, value systems and the context in which they are leading. There might be a lot to learn from those who have a unique style. Reach out and find out more about their different ways of leading; you just might learn something that can enhance your own way of leading.

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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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