They never really stood a chance.

As soon as they opened their mouth, you could tell what was going on. Distinguishing like a rockstar, you could see the edges in their leadership. What they really need to be taking on, but simply aren’t willing to.

You can read the situation from a bird’s eye view, and when you get bored of that, you can zoom down and zero in with the accuracy of a super-mega-laser-periscope. (That’s a thing right?)

You’ve read all of the books, and you’ve learned all of the patterns of leadership. You know how to have the difficult conversation with them, because you know how to be about the stuff they’re bringing.

But that’s also your shortcoming.

For all of the distinguishing, leaderizing and insight you are doing and generating, you’re entirely focused over there. You’ve got eyes on everything the other person is doing, and even worse, you’re right about most of it. But all of that keeps you safe from having a look on your own side.

Sure, you can talk about what you’re doing, but only as a reflection of the edges, breakdowns and work the person you’re leading at is unwilling to take on.

Difficult conversations are easy for you to take on, because you never really address what is difficult about them for you. Instead, you put your attention on how to have the difficult conversation at someone. It feels leader-y (and actually, it is — it’s just that it’s only the first stage of leadership).

When I offer an invitation to take a look inwards, and see how you might be showing up, the certainty and the ability to distinguish what’s happening on the other side of the fence only heightens. What’s the point in looking over here? You can clearly see what is going on with them, and looking over here is simply a waste of time.

You’d rather keep the attention on your direct report/friend/partner/etc. so you can figure out how to serve them. How can you develop their leadership better so they don’t show up this way?

If only you could fix the world around you, then there wouldn’t be any work for you to do inwards anyhow. Why doesn’t the damn world just conform to the correct way you know it ought to be? (#Leadership)

In a pause between your quasi-rant, I invite you to consider you’re not actually interested in supporting this person to shift.

“Why would you say that? Why wouldn’t I want them to shift past this?” You ask in astonishment. Maybe this is some of my stuff showing up, you think, starting to look for what my edges and breakdowns may be.

“For the same reason you’re not actually interested in shifting past it yourself.” I offer. “You’re more interested in being right about this person, than you really are in doing the deep work.”

“Look, if you’re not willing to take a look on your own side, then you kind of need this person to keep showing up this way. What if what they were doing was exactly what they ought to be doing, and the problem was the person leading them?”

You sit with that, the same way you sit with the piece of gristle you forgot to cut off a piece of meat. Maybe if you chew it long enough, no one will notice when you spit it back out onto your plate.

The trap your ego has laid for you now consists of all the work you’ve done up to this point. You’re brilliant, can distinguish things from a mile away, and all it’s doing now is giving you a comfortable spot to back-seat quarterback from.

“Have you considered your ability to point out someone’s next edge in leadership is now the way you avoid your own edge in leadership?”

Giving it roughly two milliseconds of thought, you respond, “Yah, I thought about that, but let me tell you what they were doing last Monday.”

I slow you down.

“Hold on, I think you misunderstood me. It sounds like you heard me say ‘Have you thought about ignoring the fact this is the way you avoid your own edge in leadership.” (The playful jab in your ribs creates a little bit of space for you to laugh at yourself). “Will you take some time and actually sit with this? Whenever you notice yourself identifying someone else’s edge — someone else’s breakdown in leadership — will you take a look and see how that is a reflection of what’s next for you?”

Glumly, you respond, “Sure.”

It’s never fun to be the one to take away someone’s toys.

After we finish our call, I sit down and start taking notes…

How are all of these edges we’ve just been talking about a reflection of myself?