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  • Writer's pictureBrian Reaves

I Can (NOT) Do This!

I talked to an organization's president recently, and he told me the story of Andy (name changed to protect the guilty). Andy had been working under their department head for a few years, and when they left for another job, Andy got the promotion by default.

 Eager to prove himself, Andy began making bad decisions. He made obvious mistakes and destabilized areas that had long ago been established as stable. Andy's leadership style was simply this: "I make the decisions I make, and right or wrong, they are my decisions. I would rather sit in a pile of ashes as it all burns down around me than ask for help."

Asking for help when we need it can be humbling at times. It forces us to admit we don't know what to do in a particular situation and we are trusting someone else to guide us. We are, in essence, saying, "Give me advice on what to do next." And then if we follow that advice, some people see that as admitting someone knows more than us.

Humility is a huge thing, but every good leader I've ever met is comfortable asking for help when needed. I've also met leaders who never asked for anything from anyone, and they were successful, but they also made some big unnecessary mistakes along the way.

In Andy's case, every mistake made it harder for his boss to learn to trust him with bigger projects. His boss knew that Andy would never tell him if he couldn't do something, and he wouldn't ask for help along the way. That meant they could stumble at some easy hurdle that had long ago been overcome simply because of Andy's pride and stubbornness. This limited what Andy could be trusted with.

Never be afraid to ask for help along the way. I am so thankful to have people in my life who have succeeded in areas that I am new to. I eagerly ask for their advice and listen to them. I may not do everything they say, but I always listen. Every single person you know could teach you something if you are willing to listen.

And the worst part is this: when you desperately need help, almost everyone else can see it. They see you struggling, sometimes failing, and sometimes clueless as to what to do next. Maybe someone in your life could have the answer to the problem you are facing if only you asked.

Andy is a failing leader simply because he is eager to prove he deserves his position. With every obviously avoidable mistake, his team loses more confidence in him. He could be much further along in his job, but he refuses to accept any help.

Don't be afraid to seek the advice of people in your life who have experience in your weak areas. The best leaders build on the foundations others have laid before them.

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