by Michael Holland

We all carry around an invisible piece of leadership luggage. Some stagger under the weight of a huge steamer trunk; some lug an old suitcase, bursting at the seams; others shoulder a backpack, ready for the big hike; still others sling a svelte messenger bag casually over one shoulder.  Inside each piece of luggage, we find the burdens of the past: the mistakes that seem to never leave our shadow, the what-could’ve-beens, the voices of less-than-perfect mentors and parents, the life challenges our employees and kids are facing, our leadership insecurities, our lack of knowledge of the best management practices… the list goes on and on. The burden of this luggage can bear down on us, making it difficult to execute swiftly and with purpose.

Great leaders do 3 things in managing their luggage:

  • Recognizing – Great leaders visualize the luggage they are carrying. They know there is a burden bag that can be filled every minute of every day. They recognize that subconsciously, they are constantly listening to those voices from the past that bring them down. And most importantly, they recognize that they must see, name, and process those burdens in order to maintain a healthy outlook.
  • Cleansing – Great leaders take time to empty out the contents of their luggage. They sort through the tasks, projects, responsibilities, and other junk so that they can delegate work, eliminate the jumble that’s taking up space, and decide to say no to certain things. They capture the learning moments to create wisdom and purge the insecurities. They know that an investment of time for a healthy cleanse will pay huge dividends by allowing them to be lean and agile.
  • Seeing – Great leaders see what they will do before they do it. They anticipate. They visualize the collision of events and conversations that will require them to pivot and lead well. And since they know exactly what’s in their luggage, they can quickly throw any of it off in a moment’s notice, sling the messenger bag over their head, and be fully prepared to use all their energy for their team and the situation in which they find themselves. They are a lean, mean, leading machine.

Great leaders aren’t necessarily smarter than the rest of us, but they are more agile and mature. They recognize that they need to invest the time and energy to fit their leadership “stuff” in a messenger bag.

But what about you? Are you one of those leaders carrying around a huge steamer trunk? If so, maybe it’s time for a good cleansing.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Re-read the descriptions of the different types of leadership luggage. What kind of bag are you toting around?
  • Have you ever struggled with the burden of your leadership luggage? What are some actionable steps you can take to get rid of some of your extra “stuff”?