Sam was a little kid playing by the beach when his friends decided to sneak into the fancy resort in their village. This meant that he had to swim around the huge water breaker – a task proved to change his life forever. The tide was high and his tiny muscles were fragile. With every wave, he choked a bit more. The flowing salty water prevented him from calling for help. He tried but failed and gave in to that ray of light he saw form beneath the waterline and the fading voices of his friends as they left him behind. Sam simply drowned.
As a leader you might have not experienced Sam’s trauma, but your experiences of failure could be equally challenging. Sam’s intense experience could have led him to hold self-limiting beliefs like “I will never be a good swimmer” or “I will never be as strong as my friends” which can later on become self-fulfilling prophecies. Leaders also hold some self-limiting beliefs and assumptions that undermine their leadership and challenge their success. They can sabotage their confidence and question their self-worth putting a constraint on their true potential. At times, leaders fail to even notice that they have those beliefs just like a fish cannot notice the aquarium.
While therapy can be effective in traumatic situations, coaching helps leaders overcome their leadership-limiting beliefs. Coaches can support leaders to work with their beliefs and assumptions on three stages:
1- Creating awareness by unearthing such assumptions. They bravely hold the mirror in the face of destructive internal dialogues of their clients
2- Challenging the validity of those assumptions through powerful questioning. They solicit evidence from the clients past experiences to defy such beliefs.
3- Inspiring new serving beliefs to instill a growth mind-set in the clients. They set incremental assignments of operation through new beliefs.
Sam not only survived, but also confronted his fear and refused to let his limiting beliefs to restrain him. Ten years later, he became a lifeguard serving on the beach of the same resort helping privileged guests and poor kids. In the space between a helpless kid left amid the tides and a lifeguard entrusted with people’s lives, unfolded a journey of challenging limiting beliefs.