There is a fundamentally false assumption that’s responsible for the gap between current and emerging firm leaders. This gap limits what we can accomplish, makes things harder than necessary, and undermines the very quality of our lives. What is this false assumption? That the reality we experience is “the reality” when in fact it, is simply “our reality.” This false assumption causes us to conclude that our view of things is right, and others are wrong. Hence, the gap.
At a recent workshop with both current and emerging leaders, current leaders were sharing how they wished up-and-comers would step up and take more responsibility in the firm. “We’d be happy to give them more power, but they don’t seem to be rising to the occasion.” They felt the younger generation wasn’t as motivated as they were, and that they were overly concerned about their life/work balance. In short, they were expecting the younger generation to have the same view of the world that they had, and do what they did. It sounded like they wanted clones of themselves!
Emerging leaders were in the room. They had a different perspective. They said they wanted to take more responsibility in the firm, but it wasn’t clear exactly what was expected. “Of course we want to advance our careers and move up, but we’re not interested in spending the rest of our lives working 50 to 60 hour weeks. We want a life outside of work.” There was more.
The seeming gap is readily dissolved with honest, open communication, starting with the premise that neither group is “right” but rather each has its own set of views. Communication is only effective to the degree we recognize our view as simply our view, and honor and respect other views as equally valid. Easier said than done. We’re invested in our views and we love being right. We have evidence to support our views! But then again, so does everyone else. One of the reasons everyone’s “right” is our views serve as filters, allowing in only that which validates and reinforces them, excluding evidence to the contrary.
Current leaders may feel they’ve earned the right to be “right”. Perhaps, but isn’t the real question, are we getting the results we want? Leaders who choose to let go of their egoic need for power and control discover a new, higher realm of possibilities to inspire and support others to step up. In essence, such leaders create the space within which emerging leaders can thrive. In the end, it’s not about who’s right, it’s about what views will produce the desired result.
It’s up to current leaders to set the tone by making it safe for people to share openly. Leaders need to be authentic and vulnerable. People resonate with that and begin to feel permission to show up in the same way. It’s helpful to ask ourselves if we’re trying to maintain a façade or an image when it comes to communicating with our team, or are we open, willing to share what we really feel, including some of our fears and concerns? This behavior tells others it’s safe for them to do the same.
For the emerging leader, share what’s in your heart and what matters to you. Be bold and courageous. Talk about how you want to contribute to the firm, and the future you’d like to have. Share your ideas on ways the firm might do things better (with permission of course!). Let current leaders know the type of support that could help you thrive. If there’s a current leader you have great respect for, perhaps asked them to mentor you and give you some guidance. They’d probably love that. In short, ask for what you want, and stay committed to what’s important to you.
Communication needs to be viewed as an ongoing process, rather than a one-time event. Get to know each other as people, including each person’s goals and aspirations, whether looking towards retirement or building a career. Support each other in having what each person wants, and you’ll see common goals will be met with greater ease and enthusiasm.
For a gap between current and emerging leaders to survive, it must remain unexamined, and undiscussed. When we welcome different views into the light, we see our reality as simply our own collection of views, and we’re free to choose others. We can let go of the ones that don’t serve us, even the ones that feel comfortable and familiar, and choose views that better serve our purpose. This more enlightened approach opens us to a greater set of possibilities for success, happiness, fulfillment, pretty much everything we want. As we shift our views, our world changes. Don’t believe me. Try it and see for yourself.
About the Author
The author Rick Solomon, CPA has been a practice growth and profitability consultant for two decades. Rick’s company teaches professionals how to peel away unnecessary self-limiting views to manifest the practice or career of their dreams!