I have heard many stories over the years about how people (women and people of color specifically) were held back due to the limitations of others rather than their own.
A group of leaders in an organization are huddled together in a room to discuss areas of growth for the organization. During their discussion, it is noted that additional leaders will need to be tapped to carry out the vision of the future. This immediately sparks a conversation regarding the “up and comers” and those “loyal” to the organization who would be ideal to accomplish the needed tasks.
One by one, the talent is put up for judgment and scrutiny.
- What about Chen? He has been with us for 20 years and knows our history. Well, he is recently divorced and going through a hard time. I am not sure he can take on such a big task right now.
- What about Charlie? She’s bright, talented, and brings a good deal of positive energy. Well, she is pursuing an advanced degree right now and I don’t think she has room in schedule for this big task.
- What about Jamal? He consistently demonstrates strong relational and stragic leadership skills. Well, he hasn’t been here very long and would struggle getting up to speed with our history.
- What about Shelia? She has been with us for 10 years and has done good work. Well, she disagreed with us on that one policy. I worry she will be difficult to work with on this project of high importance.
You see, what could be happening here is a projection of personal limitations onto others. Just because you had a hard time with your divorce, doen’t mean Chen is having the same experience. Just because you did not carry a heavy workload while pursuing your advanced degree, doesn’t mean Charlie will struggle. Just because you may have struggled to lead large projects earlier in your career, doesn’t mean Jamal will follow in your footsteps. Just because you don’t fee comfortable speaking truth to power, doesn’t mean Shelis should be penalized for saying what needed to be said.
I have heard these stories many times. I have experienced similar stories along my own journey. It makes me sad that we can so easily hold someone back because of our own limitations.
I vow to critically examine each time I might hold someone back to ensure I am not doing so because of my own limitations. Sometimes, the opportunity is not right for a person at the present time. However, I will not let that become my excuse when in reality, your limitations are very different from my own. Mine will not hold you back!