How well do you understand your limitations? Two announcements caught my attention this week not so much for their content but for the message that they offer: self-awareness is an absolutely critical foundation to any form of leadership.
The first was an email from Elizabeth Proust, chair of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, announcing the resignation of our CEO John Brogden. Brogden has been in the role for a couple of years and – in this member’s opinion – has done a good job improving the strategy for member engagement and in advocating for improved governance standards in the not-for-profit sector and gender diversity in business and on boards.
He has said that “looking at the time commitment required by the CEO role at AICD, I have decided to stand down from this role and focus my energies on my obligations as Chairman of Lifeline and UrbanGrowth NSW in particular.” The backstory, announced by his wife Lucy earlier in the day at a Lifeline luncheon, is that he’s been on leave from his role for several months and is presently in hospital receiving treatment for a relapse of his depression.
Brogden’s history of mental illness and depression is well documented, and he has said “experiences like mine show there is a way back” for other like him. But that means understanding one’s limitations.
The second was an announcement from radio presenter, Em Rusciano, sharing her emotional overwhelm at having recently miscarried at 13 weeks. In mourning the loss of her baby boy, she was “going to take some time off the radio, off performing, off social media, off life. Not for too long, but I need some time.”
“I know you’ll all understand”, she said.
Russo’s honest appraisal of her ability to perform in a high-stakes, very public role as an entertainer while also navigating intense grief, struck a chord. And what really impressed me was her willingness to step away from a new job in an uber competitive environment to concentrate on self-healing. In reality, perhaps it was the only choice.
Neither Brogden nor Russo were looking to impress me or anyone else in their announcements, yet at the very least they can be sure that many of us will relate.
A couple of years ago, just one month into a new CEO contract, my father was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that claimed his life after only three weeks. At the time, I felt intense pressure to push on, distract myself from the grief, and focus on delivering the business goals I’d promised.
For four months, I bobbed about in a sea of grief before the emotion eventually grabbed me by the ankles and pulled me under. By the time I called “time out” I was physically unable to get myself out of bed in the mornings. Clearly, I could not lead effectively in that state, nor do justice to the other responsibilities in my life.
It’s impossible to lead effectively when pushed beyond your limits. That’s why good leaders accept their limitations, but great leaders make choices that align with them.
What choices have you made to align with your limitations?
Yours in solidarity,