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For too many leaders a bruised ego can feel like a life threatening injury.

When we are driven by insecurity we are dangerously vulnerable to being devastated by the slightest critique or failure. Our self worth is tentatively balanced between arrogance and self-hatred and we need constant boosts and affirmations to keep us from tipping into despair.

Maybe your experience is less dramatic, but most of us can relate to the sense of our identity being too closely tied to our performance and the approval of others. If we don’t get a handle on that insecurity it can all too easily lead us astray; with potentially devastating effects.

So what can we do? How can we practically defend against being undermined by insecurity and threatened by bruised egos?

1. Dig Deep: Ask yourself “What are the deepest truths about me?”. Explore the things that root your core identity. Consider both the things about you that are apparent on the surface (roles, titles, achievements, etc.) and the things that are much more personal (essential relationships, fundamental attributes, deepest beliefs). What are the anchors to your confidence that are least dependent on things outside your control and that give you the the surest sense of being seen, known, worthy, and loved?

2. Regular Reminders: Figure out ways to bring yourself back to these truths as often as possible. Post them in your bathroom, tattoo them on your arm, create or buy artwork that brings them into focus, attend a weekly religious meeting that affirms them, set a calendar notification to bring them up daily… The point is to understand that there are innumerable distractions and lies that will try to prevent us from living out of a secure, confident identity and we need intentional rituals and reminders to stay on track.

3. Seek Support: Being healthy as a leader is a team sport and a group activity. Find people you look up to and get them to mentor you formally or informally. Find friends and peers who can run alongside you for peer encouragement. Choose a couple people with potential you can invest in so you can learn by teaching. Taking the risk of vulnerability with even one person who will call you back to your best intentions and identity is a needed and a powerful act of defiance against everything that tries to drag you down.

4. Give Grace: You’re going to mess this up. There will be times when you are fatigued, distracted, or just plain selfish and you let insecurity have too much say in your life and leadership. The question is: How long will you let your mistakes and failures stay in control? How much damage and discouragement will you allow them to bring? By electing your own imperfection you create space to acknowledge it, address it, and move forward in healthier ways.

One of my favourite things to do with Catalyst is meet with leaders individually (PACE Sessions) or as groups (Kryptonite workshops) to talk through the dangers of bruised egos and the things we can do to foster deeper rooted confidence.

Contact us to talk about how we can help you and your team.

I love my country. And I’m ashamed of it.

The ongoing discoveries of unmarked graves of indigenous children removed from their homes and forced into residential schools for the purpose of ending their cultures is a stark and painful reminder of one of the most insidious truths about Canada. While visiting our capital with my family last week we were silenced by the hundreds of children’s shoes placed in front of our parliament. Many more shoes, toys, and works of art surround the nearby Centennial Flame. The power of the message, pointedly framed with the Peace Tower and House of Commons, is immense.

People far better informed, far more impacted, and far more eloquent than myself have commented on the meaning of these horrific discoveries and the lasting impact of the evil done under the authority of church and state. 

Among the issues raised in some circles is the tension between loyalty to Canada and addressing the injustices perpetrated by it.

The thing about loyalty (as I’ve written before) is that it comes at the cost of trust and time, and must be earned, not imposed.

Loyalty to any country, cause, creed, organization, or individual should involve a degree of critical assessment, an unflinching reality check to see the best and worst of what it offers. Blind or compelled loyalty is at best idealistic and always dangerous.

In a couple weeks I will proudly wear Canada shirts and cheer loudly for athletes wearing the maple leaf at the Olympics (knowing there are a great many problems with the Olympic movement, including fair questions about the wisdom of these games proceeding). I will do so in the belief that at our best Canada can be a blessing and an example to the world. But I will also hold in my heart the shadow of knowing how terribly far from our ideals we have been, continue to be, and may always be if we fail to reckon with reality.

In different, but similar ways I must do the same with every organization I’m involved with: I celebrate what is good, believe in the potential of our ideals, and commit to seeing our failures and wrongdoing as clearly as I can. Only then can I offer the kind of loyalty that makes things better.

I have compassion for those who believe Canada, or any organization, is too corrupt to save. I am increasingly aware that my many privileges make it much easier for me to wait for incremental change rather than insisting on a radical push for justice now. I’m wrestling with what that all means and how to act in this awareness.

But I do know that Maya Angelou’s wisdom applies as we try to reconcile the best and worst of any entity:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

One way to know better and do better is to read the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.