Dismissed for lunch, I walked out of the leadership conference with an eye for my car. I needed to drive home, check on the littles, make sure the babysitter wasn’t duct-taped to the ceiling. Then, a quick lunch before finding my seat for the next session.
Drive. Duct tape. Dine. Derriere.
Hundreds of conference goers exited the building with me. Our faces were as bright with sunshine as the fairy dust of inspiration we carried out of the session.
What a conference! Amazing! I feel I strong. Empowered. Able to leap tall buildings with a single…!
Me. Flat on the ground. Arms and legs splayed across the manicured grass. A game of middle-aged-Twister gone bad.
The culprit? An uneven sidewalk. The victim? Rolled right ankle. I flew like Cirque de Soleil, but landed like Wipeout.
I heard the gasps and felt the stares of conference-goers as they passed the carnage. Ugh. The way I saw it, I had two choices: ONE, tend to my ankle. Or TWO, tend to my ego.
Ego. Definitely, ego.
“Are you okay, ma’am?” Mr. Nice Guy smiled, reached out a hand.
“Me?” Pshaw! I gathered the paraphenalia I’d flung in flight: purse, car keys, water bottle. “Oh, I’m fine. No problem.”
Whoa. That ankle really hurts.
Again, his hand. “Are you sure? Can I get your car for you?”
Later that evening, I’d recognize the wisdom of his offering. The kindness. Splayed on the grass, however, I saw only my neediness.
Feigning nonchalance, I surveyed the scene. A great multitude passed my perch. They watched, nervous, to see if I’d rise, a phoenix from my ashes. I couldn’t let them down. Any other group? Maybe. A group of leaders at a leadership conference? Not a chance.
[Insert “Eye of the Tiger” here.]
I rose up from the ground, and stood up.
“I’m good!” I offered Mr. Nice Guy a reassuring smile. “Just need to walk it off, that’s all. Thanks.”
I’d eventually make it to my car, and return to finish the last four hours of the conference.
But the pain wouldn’t stop. Worse, neither would I. I kept going, limping through my experiences and responsibilities for six more hours until pain, an x-ray and the words “fractured distal fibula” forced me to admit reality.
I was hurt. And I needed help.
Somewhere along the way, long before the mishap in the grass, I bought into two big, fat lies:
- Asking for help is a sign of weakness, and
- Strong people, leader-like people, are never needy.
That, my friends, is a bunch of bunk.
You and I may claim to know this, may brag all about vulnerability and community and the value of each other. But when something happens to make us limp, pride tempts us to prove how very strong and able and determined we are. Instead of asking for help, we walk it off. Push through our pain.
Until we end up in a doctor’s office, counselor’s chair, or bedroom corner all fetal-like wondering how we fell so completely apart.
So let’s get a few things straight (she says as she types from a recliner with an ice pack on her foot):
Weakness—that occasional moment of neediness—isn’t evidence of failure; it’s proof of LIFE. Welcome to the human race. You’re allowed to be mangled on the grass from time to time.
Asking for help doesn’t disqualify you from leadership. But refusing to might. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Your best leadership isn’t your altogether, always-have-an-answer perch of superhero perfection. It’s who you show yourself to be in the wipeout. Don’t miss an opportunity to lead from the ground.
Always, always, always tend your heart, not your ego. Enough said.
And, for heaven’s sake, let Mr. Nice Guy pull up your car.
Is it difficult for you to feel needy from time to time? Why or why not?