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The Dangers of Defensive Leadership

As A Leader - How Can You Choose Daring over Defensiveness?
As A Leader - How Can You Choose Daring over Defensiveness?

Improv - Setting the Scene

There’s a moment in every improv show where you see the scene beginning to crash and burn. The performers seem lost, the audience exudes discomfort, and you must make a choice: do I make a big choice and offer ideas that may or may not work, or do I cut my losses and keep my distance?

Collaborate and be Daring – or Compete and be Defensive?

Leaders have to make choices daily between guarding our egos (how we want others to see us), and daring to create opportunity and connection:

  • If you’re facing a new challenge or feeling insecure, you can either hammer it out yourself; or you can reach out to someone else for help

  • If you make a mistake, you can punish yourself or avoid blame; or you can share your learnings from the consequences

  • If you are forced to collaborate with someone you don’t like, you can vie for power; or you can seek common ground and set healthy boundaries

  • If you have to relay a hard message, you can either distance yourself from it, or you can find a way to convey it authentically

In each of these scenarios, the path of daring requires us to grapple with our egos and “yes, and” being seen as human, while each defensive move builds a wall around us, both protecting, and containing us.

In an improv team that constantly chooses to defend, performers realize that their big choices aren’t safe, and they instead choose to stay quiet, hang back, and honestly start to resent their teammates. The result is a slowly spreading toxic team culture.

The same is true for our teams, who take their cues from our behaviors more than our words. How can we encourage collaboration when we don’t ask for help? How can we tout work life balance when we avoid setting our own boundaries? How can we ask for daring ideas, if we punish ourselves for taking big swings and missing?

With each brick we add to the wall around ourselves, we contribute one to the walls of our team members.

Successful Leaders Inspire their Teams to Triumph

So, here’s my challenge to you: Think about 1-2 tiny ways that you choose defensiveness over daring. Start in the kiddie pool, not the deep end. Consider a couple different ways that you could take the path of daring and do the one that feels most doable… today or tomorrow. Then, celebrate it. Share the story with someone who will celebrate with you - like me! (Seriously - email me… I love these stories!)

Ready for a partner that holds you or your leadership team accountable for choosing the path of daring? Let’s Talk!

I got your back! Shannan


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