Lately I’ve felt unsteady.
I have been interim manager of a store out here for a few weeks and have witnessed first hand what it’s like to enter a store that shed no love from its leader. A store that had no one to follow. A store that had no one to nurture them, to help them grow. I have inserted myself into their lives and have witnessed first hand what they feel.
I have a pretty close relationship with the idea. I grew up in it, being from a father that was never there. So I feel for them. I understand what it’s like to grow used to the consistent sense that you just have to deal with whats given to you, because the person you’re supposed to look up to isn’t there.
I hate it.
I have been every shade of exhausted you can think of. I’ve been physically exhausted from the lack of floor coverage. I’ve been emotionally exhausted trying to support and build up a team that was left to fend for themselves. I’ve been mentally exhausted trying to figure out how to piece it back together in a way that will be positive. In a way thats not putting bandaids over bullet holes. I am trying to show them leadership but also show them love. Give them a leader they can trust, a leader they can turn to.
I refuse to lead through fear.
I’ve worked under such leader, and it almost cost me my job and large parts of my emotional well being. I believe firmly in leading with respect but I don’t demand it, I earn it. I earn it by listening, I earn it by allowing them to illuminate pieces of themselves in hopes that it builds trust. I am firm when needed, although I am still learning my footing when it comes to tough conversations. But having to have a few of them has brought about the simplicity in it. If you lead well, the conversations don’t have to be hard or scary. They can be thoughtful and constructive without being confrontational.
This experience has taught me some other things too.
It’s taught me that I’ve spent a lot of time doubting myself.
I’ve doubted who I am, what I already possess, and what I am truly capable of.
I confided in a fellow leader the other day regarding how defeated and unsupported I was feeling. I touched base on how words from another leader regarding me hurt my heart. Mostly because I feel that said leader made these judgments based on an unfair playing ground. But the leader I confided in said something to me and it made me think. She said I was placed here for a reason, and that I’m going to do amazing things.
I earned this.
I have spent so much time stuck in the land of not thinking I was capable of more, but pushing myself to go there anyways. It’s proven to be a strangely useful tactic. The push, not the whole not believing in myself.
Being in this store has taught me a lot about the company, the position, and the store and its inhabitants. But the most important thing it has taught me is that I am capable. And hot damn as overwhelmed as I am right now, I feel good about the progress I’ve made. I am proud of the way they greet me when I walk through the door. I am proud of how they come to me when they are having problems so we can solve them together and they don’t have to weather the storms alone. Some leaders will tell you that having those kind of connections with your staff shifts a boundary, which in some ways it does, but not allowing yourself to truly know who works for you doesn’t allow you to enlighten their true capacity. You don’t know what someone is capable of until you get to know them and they show you.
When I started in this city I was worn out. I didn’t want the job, and I was over how I felt. I wanted something different, I wanted something that allowed me to be less harsh on my abilities. I wanted something different because the want for what I had was shadowed by the harsh leadership I was working under. I will lay a disclaimer out there, in no way shape or form am I saying this human is a bad leader. We just have different managing styles and they conflicted, and thats okay. What wasn’t okay is the fact that I let it happen and I didn’t say anything. I came to work every day miserable. I went into every meeting with my district manager and left in tears because I felt fearful to speak to the fact that we just didn’t mesh and it was affecting my leadership in her presence. That what he knew about me up to this point was a shell of a person just trying to avoid as much confrontation as possible.
I had a coworker tell me something unsavory that this leader spoke about me. This statement was unprofessional and hurtful, however, I am glad it was spoke because it put things into perspective.
“She just wants me to hold her hand and do it for her.”
Negative. I never wanted a hand hold or an atta boy. I honestly just wanted a leader who wasnt going to treat me like the soccer coach that made me quit. I wanted a leader who would elevate me. I wanted a leader that would teach me the things I needed to know. Instead I ended up in a position I didnt understand fearful that if I made the wrong decision, or any decision at all, that I would lose my chance at becoming what I moved 900 miles away from home for. I wanted someone to treat me like an equal, not some kindergarten child they got paired with on a field trip.
She failed me, and I failed her. We failed each other.
I was so scared of her and what she was capable of, that I allowed the strong willed, loving, leader just slip right outta me. Now, that wasn’t always the case, because if I weren’t a great leader the people at that store wouldnt miss me. They wouldn’t tell me they wished I was back. They wouldnt tell me they needed me. I wouldnt have a partner telling me she feels like she has no shoulder. Like she has no support since I left. It breaks my heart to hear those things, but at the same time it also solidifies the fact that I was doing something right. I did what I needed, but only when she wasn’t looking. Which in hindsight wasn’t fair to me, her, or the team.
My district manager told me I don’t lead confidently, that I lack courage. Which isn’t untrue due to the fact that his information came from a person I was doing my best not to upset or step on toes. I did lack the courage and conviction to make decisions and stick to them. But I was also lacking knowledge and after a while I stopped asking as many questions and stopped doing what I thought was expected of me because I honestly didn’t know what was expected of me. It had less to do with not knowing how to lead. I’ve been leading for quite some bit and thats how I ended up here. And more to do with having knowledge gaps and not feeling supported enough to ask the right questions without fearing that I’d be made a fool.
But after being placed in this store that lacked everything I could give them it’s given me the opportunity to grow in my role and in myself. I am learning new limits, and I am learning new boundaries, and I am learning new approaches to things I didn’t pay much mind to before.
My former leader called her my safety net. I’d like to disagree.
She was my road block.
And without her in front of me, I am free to lead. Lead lovingly, courageously, and outrageously positive. Because attitude is top down. They feed off of what is given to them, and I’d like to think I’m giving them as much love and compassion as I can without completely compromising myself.
It’s all a balancing act, and I’m getting pretty good at standing on one foot.