Leading through disillusionment – Where to now?

If you’ve been leading for some time, you will know the feeling of disillusionment. A feeling of disappointment that things are not as good as you believed them to be. It will be temporary but frustrating while you’re in it. The upside is it usually means you’re ready to make some changes. The skills we have at the beginning of a business, or a career are specific. They give us the ability to set something up; a team, a company, a new way of working. They are often the technical skills required to really make our business hum. As we grow, our business grows and our people grow, we can arrive at a place where things are really feeling good and we know we have created something that might just be sustainable, if not truly thriving.

Right at a point where we think we should be feeling the best we can, something shifts. The overheads perhaps get a bit more than what we had expected, the team seems to be not delivering quite as well as they were and perhaps our passion has faded just a bit. The changes may be drastic or subtle, but “disillusioned” or “disappointed” might describe our feelings.

Given the state of the world these days, the grey area between working at home and working in an office, the blurred lines between what is okay when feeling slightly unwell and sucking it up and coming in… when to take sick days, when not to, how to connect with team mates, how to build culture etc. etc. – it is understandable that a feeling of “this is just not how I pictured it” might set in.

When it does arrive however, remember, disillusionment is a sign that new skills are needed in the business.  This is true for the leader, and for the team. The skills that have brought you to the present moment have done wonders and created a successful, strong way of working. Now, it is important to consider what will take you to the next level. For many leaders it is easy to see this for the business but much harder to see that for yourself.

Step back and ask yourself, what does the business really need right now, that I might not be providing?

The most common answers are usually:

  • needing to step out of the detail and look at the strategic needs
  • moving from building internal relationships, to building external ones
  • creating a path forward, a clear and revised vision for the future that everyone can get on board with
  • looking at new ways to grow the people
  • creating a coaching environment to support a change of perspective, as well as new skills.

It is hugely challenging to be confronted with getting out of the way in order to move everyone forward, but it is also the fastest way to relieve the handbrake that is holding the business back from real growth and alleviate the feeling of frustration or disappointment that you’re not where you want to be. Leaders must be brave at this junction, self-aware and prepared to take some risks to let others step up to lead into a new dimension … advanced growth, and with it, a feeling of pride and confidence.