My comfort zone as a leader was challenged. Boy did I feel uncomfortable. I learned some truths about leadership and challenge…the hard way.
Leaders like to push and nudge.
We wish to challenge you, but we aren’t too keen on challenging ourselves.
Many leaders fall into this trap because they lose sight of the need to model for those they lead. The higher leaders go up the food chain, the more risk averse they become.
Recently, I found myself in a situation when I needed to ensure that I didn’t fall into this trap. An opportunity arose for me to present at a conference. The format, however, was an Ignite talk, and I had never done one before. So, I accepted the challenge and I thought to myself it couldn’t be that difficult.
5 minutes. 20 slides that advance every 15 seconds.
This is the format of an Ignite talk. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? The topic I chose was one I could present for an hour on and have no issues. I must have practiced that speech 50 times. It felt like every time I practiced, I would get further and further away from what I was trying to say.
I learned some valuable lessons through this experience.
3 Leadership Truths about Challenge
- Constraints can help
- Challenge has many faces
- You will rise to the occasion
Constraints can help
The constraint of giving an Ignite talk was one that proved to be a great one. We often think of constraints as negatives; however, in this case, it was positive because the audience experienced multiple ideas within the one-hour session. It was also positive because it forced every speaker to get to the point because we only had five minutes. Some of our best thinking and best ideas come from constraints.
Challenge has many faces
I thought giving such a short presentation would be my biggest challenge. One thing I didn’t expect was the challenge of preparation. I had to learn how to prep for this presentation differently. Ignite speeches have their own style and flow. If someone asked me to talk for five minutes on any given topic, I would have no issue doing it. However, being clear and concise and purposeful is a different story.
Blaise Pascal once said: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” He recognized the ease of expressing oneself without the constraint of time. Being brief and precise in our expression takes much more thought and effort. So, my challenge had a different face and presented itself during the planning phase of my talk.
You will rise to the occasion
My talk was one of several that were given over an hour. I watched everyone rise to the occasion. I was excited at the chance to go last because it gave me the opportunity to hear some great ideas. I witnessed the people who spoke before me deliver amazing talks. When my talk was over, I had a rush of energy. I was convinced that if given the opportunity to present another ignite talk, I would be all in. Sometimes you don’t know what’s inside of you until you’ve been challenged to pull it out of yourself.
This experience was extremely introspective for me because I put myself in the shoes of the people I lead and challenge daily. It served as a reminder of why it’s important to frequently push and challenge ourselves as leaders.
When was a time you committed to something because you knew it would challenge you?