Call me corny, but I love ‘The Greatest Showman’ – a spectacular musical about one man’s dream to start a circus. Many of us know the film’s headline song, This is Me. The song won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, I think partly because the lyrics connected with so many people’s stories.
“I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I'm meant to be; this is me.”
Brave and bruised.
I think this sums up my approach to leadership. In today’s complex work of hybrid working, outcomes-driven business plans, the ever-pressing need for both pastoral flair and precise decision making, which too often comes at a relational cost, I suggest that both bravery and bruisedness are critical.
I have learnt that it takes bravery to make a difference and to shake complacency. The times I have needed to be most brave have been the times I have felt least popular, when the difficult decision has had to be made or when I have had to take risks and trust that I have enough connection with a colleague to weather the storm.
Being a leader is brave.
As leaders, it is our job to wrap our painful experiences into our leadership. Our bruisedness is what keeps us humble and helps us always question our ‘why’so as not to fall into the trap of assuming we’re the best for the role.
This is why I love Simon Walker’s work on the ‘undefended leader’. He proposes that being an undefended leader is about leading out of the freedom of having nothing to lose(which I am sure he nicked from Janice Joplin’s song Me and Bobby McGee and the lyric “Freedom's just another word for nothin’ left to lose”).
Nothing left to lose, be that ego, title, respect, whatever. It is a liberating space and needs to be fought for and fought to retain. It really is freedom. I do not fear my bruises: they make me the leader that I am. I know when I am sitting in freedom, I choose to let go of power and allow space for others to act without needing to be referenced; when trust is built with people because them being right is more important than me being right; when I lean on others’ brilliance instead of asserting my own knowledge; and when team members report they feel ‘psychologically safe’ with my leadership and feel fully heard.
Being a brave and bruised leader is an honour and one that I do not take lightly. I know I will have more bruising experiences and more times that require bravery but that is ok. This is me!
Tania is the CEO of Home for Good, a national charity with a vision to find a home for every child who needs one through fostering, adoption and supported lodgings for teenagers. Previously, Tarn (as she is known) was interim CEO at Capital Mass, compiling a ten-year strategy for social action across the Diocese of London. Tarn is a seasoned public speaker, author and executive coach and has 20 years of ministerial experience as well as a background working in FTSE100 companies. Tarn shares her wealth of business knowledge and leadership acumen serving on a variety of Boards: Essential Christian; Restored; and Kyria, as well as being on the National Leadership Team for Edge Ministries. Tarn is an adoptive mum to two incredible boys. They live by the river in central London and enjoy mudlarking and supporting their inner-city farm.