I have been running across the topic of judgment in my reading, and in conversations, with a number of people over the last several days. When this type of thing happens repetitively, I know I need to spend some time thinking about the topic and how it applies to leadership.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines judgment as the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing.
Judgment in both forms, approval and disapproval, can suck the life right out of the person being judged. As you move throughout your childhood, you often build walls around those parts of yourself that have been criticized, hiding the wholeness of who you are in an effort to gain approval from those you love. You forget what it is like to take initiative and have a viewpoint. You “go with the flow”, even when it creates dissonance within you to do so. This behavior gets carried into adulthood, and often is the difference between success and failure, imitator/follower and visionary/ leader.
How, you ask, can approval be detrimental ? It is true that it doesn’t hurt, at least not as much as criticism does. But it can subtly destroy your ability to be who you really are. Once you get a taste of that heady feeling you receive when you are praised for your behavior, you begin striving for more. It becomes addictive. You lose sight of your true value, and begin to create your personal value assessment based upon what others praise you for doing or being.
Approval is not to be depended upon. Just when you think you have it nailed, it can be taken away by the people you want most to receive it from – even yourself. This striving requires an enormous amount of energy, taking away from your ability to be an authentic and valuable leader, at home or at work.
Do you catch yourself considering the impression your words and behaviors create? How your presentation affected your audience? Do you engage in activities only to get approval? Do you edit what you say – creating a chasm between your thoughts and the words you use – participating in conversation only to please others? Sometimes these activities are so pervasive, you no longer know if you are in integrity with who you really are.
The challenge to becoming a truly great leader is in recognizing and loving the parts and pieces of who you are, and according the same to your co-workers and family, in all directions. It means allowing everyone around you to share their thoughts and ideas, giving full measure to the dialogue that ensues. It means developing trust in yourself to know the right thing to do and say in any situation, and trusting those around you to do the same. It means living and leading from your strengths, gifts and values, and requesting that your co-workers and family do so as well. It implies acceptance of the diversity of others, and gratitude for their insights.
As you begin to knock down the walls created by judgment you may find, as I have, that what I perceived to be my greatest weakness has turned out in the long run be my greatest strength. Other things, of which I was proud, have proven to be among my greatest weaknesses. I am thankful I have lived long enough to recognize these external and internal judgments, and to reap the benefits of my failures.
What walls have you created due to self-judgment or the judgment of others?