We are born from a long chain of legacies, stories, heroes and villains who instruct us, hobble us, or inspire us. Our ancestors, mentors, and nightmare bosses lived in our past, but the ghosts of our personal and professional ancestors still haunt us, don’t they?
The ancestors we are proud to claim inspire us to be better people, but when we make a mistake or face a loss, their ghosts might be less friendly, and more judgmental, especially in our ambitious minds!
The ancestors whose lives embarrass us pop up when we least expect them, pointing the finger at our own folly, modeled by their own. Sure, mistakes are human, but their ghosts seem to say, “You blew it!” instead of “You’re human; get over it!”
The ancestors who judge us are like stones in our path, tripping us up when we face a particularly hard decision, or when the world throws us a curve ball. Their ghosts lurk beside us, if we let them, seeming to relish our failures and demean our successes.
How does this affect us as leaders? We lose our grounding, get triggered and break down the trust of our colleagues and followers. So here are three things you can do to protect yourself from these destabilizing ghosts, starting here and now:
- Be mindful. When family patterns or old job traumas flare up, learn to recognize the warning signs before you act out. Then take a break and assess if that ghost is appearing as a warning, or are you just spooked!? Answering that question will help you proceed with dignity and clarity.
- Be honest with yourself. Some ghosts will keep coming no matter how much personal and professional work you do to exorcise them. Your father’s disapproval, your bad boss’ sabotage may have cut deep. Acknowledge that. Once you accept them as fact, those ghosts will be a lot less scary! They’re just patterns, habits, stories that rise up when you’re triggered. Compassion and honesty will give them less power, so you’ll cause less damage under their influence.
- Be transparent, but professional. Let key colleagues know about your triggers, experiences that almost always bring up your ghosts. Help them help you by minimizing the surprise effect of behaviors or language that seem neutral to them. And find out how to keep their ghosts away, too. Then when they show up, you’ll have allies in the fight against the inconvenient undead.