How Authentic Leaders Know When to Ask For Help?

Are you sabotaging your success by refusing to ask for help? As humans, we are natural pattern-seekers, yet we often overlook the toll it takes on our well-being and performance when we try to do everything ourselves.

Humans are sense-making creatures. We like to find patterns in what might appear random or complex — and I am no exception.

As I went on coaching more and more individuals, this train of thoughts led me to explore how they think, in particular the excess of thoughts (or overthinking) which then gave birth to my first book.

And as I kept on engaging with leaders of all sorts through my work, I noticed another trend — a core belief. These competent, smart, knowledgeable people often do everything themselves, even when they probably should not.

They rarely ask for help.

Even when they are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, they are willing to push through, persevere and get things done by themselves. It might be commendable in the eyes of many, but actually, it is most often detrimental to their health, performance or even both.

We can do everything, but we will not be good — even less so great — at everything we do. At best, it will be average. But what is most likely is that we end up dropping the ball or have poor results because, let’s face it, they are things we are terrible at.

At times, I found that the root of this behaviour is — especially for leaders — a reluctance to show vulnerabilities. The internal dialogue is that I cannot be bad at something as it will directly reflect on who I am.

If I cannot bake pancakes, I’m a bad mom. If I struggle to understand this technical concept, I am a bad team leader. And so forth.

And yet, being vulnerable, sharing openly with others our weaknesses contribute to being perceived as authentic. And this authenticity displayed by leaders directly correlates with higher levels of employee job satisfaction, engagement and workplace happiness.

Another reason leading us not to ask for help is a simple miscalculation. We solely evaluate the direct costs of doing something, where we can spend our time instead of money (e.g. paying someone).

But we often don’t look at the indirect costs, such as missed opportunities. If we were not spending our time doing this activity, what could we be doing instead? Would it have been more productive?

If we complete the activity and produce poor results, what are the missed gains? Let’s say that even though it has never been your forte, you did the PowerPoint presentation for the customer meeting all by yourself. You made it on time, but unfortunately, the results look amateurish and blend. What possible gains did you lose by not having someone helping you produce an outstanding presentation?

Does that mean we should stop working on the things we are not good at? Is asking for help just an excuse to avoid challenging ourselves?

Obviously not. That would have dire consequences for our personal growth. If anything, asking for help should elevate our performance and allow us to achieve greater results.

So, the question is when to ask for help and then who to ask for. And to answer, we need to integrate another dimension than strengths and weaknesses. What we are good at and what we could improve on.

We need to look at what brings us joy and what we find appealing.

About seven months ago, the famous entrepreneur Elon Musk bought social media Twitter and became its CEO. He recently announced that he would hand over the position and its duties to Linda Yacarino.

In an interview, he explained that he made this decision so that he could focus on his core strengths — being a visionary, creating new things and working more on the technical aspects of Twitter, namely features and product development.

He was the CEO of Twitter and could still be. However, he clearly understood that there was a more effective choice. Whether or not he is delegating or discarding the CEO’s activities is up for debate. What is not is that he asked and will get help.

Then, who to ask for?

Depending on the activities, you will need different kinds of help, so we should ask different people.

A few months ago, I shared my Growth Network Model with you, detailing the nine categories of individuals that can help us discover and reach new heights. We can use it to inform our reflections.

At a high level, what would Elon look for?

The answer might be that Linda is indeed a great collaborator — although she probably can play a part as a connector by opening doors and generating new opportunities; be challenger by providing a different opinion highlighting reasoning blindspots; and even take the role of a wise advisor with her professional expertise on topics like corporate advertising.

So that’s one way to look at the Growth Network Model. However, asking for help doesn’t necessarily mean getting someone else to do a defined task written on a job description.

Many leaders I work with are highly engaged in their work. They are conscientious, dedicated and, more often than not, they overwork themselves.

Even when they are not at work, they think about it. They are unable to detach. They cannot enjoy the present moment with their loved ones as they are always absorbed in their thoughts. They struggle to sleep as they ruminate over their next big project.

Over time, they ultimately deplete themselves and burn out. Needless to say, their performance hits rock bottom then, and it can take months, if not years for them to recover.

They should ask for help too. But a different kind to different people.

For example, seeking a well-being officer, forcing them to stop working and grounding them in the present moment. It could also be a steam releaser so that they can vent about their current issues, get it off their chests and feel more appeased.

Author Kiera Cass wrote: “Accepting help is its own kind of strength.” So have a think about it and maybe wonder where you would need help and who you could ask for.

To your success,

Lison xX

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Whenever you are ready, here are a few ways I can help:

  • I recently had two executive coaching spots available. One is left. If you are interested, reply to this email and let’s have a chat.
  • If you are about to make an important decision for yourself (or your team) — let me be part of your inner circle and work towards your success, book a call with me to discuss this.
  • Book one of my workshops for your team to elevate energy and performance. More information here.
  • With my first book Act Before You overThink to learn how to make better decisions faster and liberate your mind from the constant chatter that hinders your potential. You can buy it here.
Picture of Lison Mage

Lison Mage

I help clever individuals and teams conquer overthinking and perform at their full potential. Together, we can go from a place of uncertainty and being paralyzed by doubt to gaining clarity on your current situation, where you want to go, and how to get you there!


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