It’s rare that we understand our actions or bother to wonder why we acted the way that we did. Taking the time to stop and think about how we really feel about any given situation is something that most of us are unaccustomed to doing. Leaders may find that they become frustrated when attempting to solve problems or get angry when a team member presents a project that might fail. These are all emotions that arise but are often ignored.
We all have good and bad traits but, not unlike our emotions, we rarely stop to consider them. We may remind ourselves of our better traits (curiosity, honesty, loyalty, etc.) but ignore the lesser ones (controlling, cruelty, disrespectful, cynical, etc.). Leaders tend to overlook both good and bad traits on the path towards becoming an ideal—this is an unrealistic stereotype.
The Good and the Bad
A penchant for curiosity may lead someone to believe that they are often sidetracked or cannot finish a project on time, while controlling behavior may be seen as a quality that is expected from a leader. The reality is that curiosity is a positive trait that has historically led to many great inventions, just as controlling behavior may be traced back to a need to feel understood.
One of the worst things that leaders (or anyone, really) can do is to try and shove all of those negative traits into the shadows. While some may strive never to raise their voice or to feel any kind of frustration, there are always good traits that go along with the (so-called) bad. There is no hiding your true self. No matter how hard you try, your truest traits will surface (as they should.)
The Importance of Understanding All Traits
Sometimes our less desired traits come with important instincts and reasons to be skeptical. Silver linings can also be found in shadows, which is why it’s important to try to understand all traits regardless of how they may be perceived at the onset. An attempt to ignore or misunderstand all traits is selling yourself short: you never know what you will find in the darkest places when you begin to shine a light.
As I mention in my book, Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up, it’s important that leaders take the time to consider all traits, good and bad, while still being open and accepting. If we stop for a moment and work toward understanding the root cause of all traits, emotions, and feelings, we can begin to understand the larger picture—the framework that makes all of us unique.
It’s not about the traits that leaders often misunderstand, it’s the ones that they are afraid to face that matter the most. Put in the work, sit with the uncomfortable parts of yourself, and search out all of those closeted traits. When brought into the light, true leadership begins to thrive.
Originally published on Quora.