Every time I go to write a new blog post or a new chapter in my book, I find myself caught between two realities. One is “I’m floundering and barely know what I’m doing” and one is “I’m actually fairly competent and knowledgeable in this area and can speak with authority.”
The difficulty in being authoritative is it can come off as authoritarian. Speaking from a voice of confidence, saying, “this is the right way to live” can be egotistical and irritating.
The difficulty in being tentative is that it can come off as non-confident. Speaking from a voice of uncertainty, saying, “Well, I’m fairly certain I might possibly know” is weak leadership.
I think the best way I have found to straddle both horses, so to speak, is to speak with authority when you know something to be true. “Sleep is vital for healthy leadership”, after all, sounds more empowering than, “From what I’ve heard, I am fairly certain that sleep can be helpful for leaders, at least, in my experience”.
At the same time, I think we can communicate our uncertainty by speaking authoritatively about it. I know that in whatever situation I lead, there are people behind me who can learn from me. But I also know I am on a journey – one that is nowhere near completion. I am learning, making mistakes, and floundering in many areas. Telling honest stories about my pitfalls and disasters levels me and allows others to see my vulnerability, flaws, and humanity.
The reality is, I know much more than some and far less than others. The best posture I can see to move forward while embracing both realities is to lead “from the middle” – learning from those ahead of me, and leading those behind me. (By the way, I’ve also learned that those “behind us” can also have great lessons to teach us, and those “ahead of us” can also learn much from us. We’ll always be in flux.)