A Missed Leadership Opportunity

Moments ago the Breaking News appeared in my inbox: Susan Rice has withdrawn her candidacy to be President Obama’s next Secretary of State. It goes without saying that the position is not only the pinnacle of a diplomat’s career it is the opportunity to bring about great change on a global scale. I have never met Susan Rice and I am sure that her future remains bright; and that may be true, this is clearly a moment where a tremendous opportunity has passed her by.

A few months ago a mutual colleague suggested that Ms. Rice would benefit from my leadership coaching—a nuanced and cutting edge process of clearly identifying and owning one’s unique talents and skills in a way that communication and leadership become open, clear and effective. In only a few sessions clients are able to see who they are in a way that allows them to build their work and working relationships on the solid ground of their strengths, instead of building an intricate façade that requires untold resources to obscure perceived weaknesses. Without exception, at the root of every leadership misstep is the desire to hide a part of one’s self from others. When leaders are freed-up from having to maintain a mask of what they feel others want them to be and who they want to be they no longer have to walk that perilous line that divides them from who they truly are.

We may never know what happen in those hours between reading the intelligence about Benghazi, discussing it with administration officials and her appearance on five national Sunday morning talk shows. Whatever one’s view on her motives and behavior, one thing seems certain, her discussion about these events was not entirely in line with her authentic leadership. Whether she knew or sensed more and didn’t press the administration line of a spontaneous attack or she should have remains unclear. What is clear is that something in this process of events didn’t sit well with her and ultimately with the Senators that controlled her fate.

Who knows if coaching after the fact would have helped her? What I do know is this: every person who sincerely engages in this process walks away knowing more about themselves and is able to instantly and effectively put it to work in their lives to create better results and, too few people are willing to engage in this work, or in this case recommend it, because it the words of many, it is “scary.”

Scary, perhaps, and, what is even scarier are what happens when leaders at every level fail to understand the amazing people they already are, while trying to construct a persona that hides what they feel they are not. The truth is that without engaging in the process of learning who we are as leaders, indeed as people, every endeavor we undertake we do so at the peril of getting trapped in our own staging. If more people were willing to take a look at themselves and move into their full potential we would have a very different crop of leaders and very different results in our public bodies.

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