The Challenge with Acceptance as a Leader

Jeff (not his real name) came to me after we had already had a couple of sessions of leadership coaching in London, and said that while he was experiencing some great benefits in increasing his acceptance at work he was also having a couple of challenges.

Acceptance as a leader is a core aspect of authentic leadership but can appear to be a very difficult thought pattern to have. In fact it is not unusual for me to be challenged quite strongly, with something along the lines of “the whole point of leadership is to create change and not passively accept the whims of the world”.

Which actually I agree with. Leadership is about creating positive change towards your higher goals, or the greater goals of the organisation that you belong to. And this is the main misunderstanding that people sometimes have around acceptance, that it is a passive, almost fatalist, acceptance of the will of others, or the universe. No. That is not it at all. Acceptance is the ability to let go of the ego attachment of the outcomes of your efforts. You make your best efforts to enable your higher goals, to encourage others, to build the right capabilities and skills. And then once you have done your best and you can no longer input or control the outcome, you let go of the vehicle and accept the outcome.

If you have done an authentic leadership programme such as in this best leadership book, then you are aiming for a higher aim that doesn’t require need, fear and lack to push you towards that goal. You are going for that goal because it is aligned with you and comes from that higher place.

When you have done what you can, acceptance of the outcome is the healthiest interaction you can have with the goal. If you succeed, that is great. If you don’t quite make the goal this time, you take that as feedback and put it into the next iteration.

Success or not is not a comment about you. It is not a comment about your identity. It is merely feedback that all the things were in place, including those which you could control and those which you couldn’t control, to make the outcome happen and you can dispassionately analyse what worked and what didn’t and which of those were in your control and which were not.

You can’t control what you can’t control. Tough to hear for some but it’s a tautological fact. X is X. You can’t control what you can’t control.