Leaders' block

By Martin Tothill

Martin lives to help and grow others to be the best leaders they can and in turn inspire a future generation of followers to do the very same.

You’ve heard of writers’ block – a feeling of losing your muse that leaves you unable to come up with anything notable, original or even publishable.

Some suffering writers feel they’re at the end of a creative road with nowhere to turn.

So, how many leaders feel this too? “My people don’t get me. My message has flopped and my best intentions have been bounced back like a grumpy out-of-office reply.”

From where you’re sitting, all you see are frosty staff, uncommunicative teams and a general unwillingness across the office to accept your latest view on where to go next. It seems to be spiralling out of control.

Leading people takes effort, there’s no doubt about that. But it also requires a mindset comprising resilience, determination, positivity, growth, intrinsic motivation and more.

When writing on the subject, author Philip Pullman challenges this condition in an inspiring and refreshing way: “Writers’ block…a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumbers’ block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?”

Now imagine you’re stuck in a leadership block.

Perhaps you’ve been caught on a bad day or your current form is a little below par and has caused you a degree of self-doubt. Negative self-talk can start to take hold and begin to frame your thoughts in a sour and destructive way. You start to question whether you’re up to the job and consider turning your back on the situation.

Take spirit from the plumber, doing a job that needs to be done and avoiding it won’t solve the problem – indeed neglecting it will only escalate the issue.

Sharing a little Catseye wisdom is to acknowledge that everyone has been here at some point.

The realities of leadership mean we’re on a learning curve, continually adjusting, amending and improving our approach. The dynamic skills of leadership need to be practised daily and this routine will provide the muscle memory for all the (big and small) things you do with your people.

Try expanding your styles and approaches to managing a range of different people and situations. Plumbers will know instinctively why problems have occurred and how they can be fixed in the most appropriate way – but this is down to a solid foundation of hours and hours of experience with a head under a sink.

Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in – because the longer you leave it and wallow in your leaders’ block, the wetter everyone gets!

Philip Pullman says: “Writers’ block is a condition that affects amateurs and people who aren’t serious about writing.”

Are you serious about leadership?


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