Dec. 7, 2021

113 How to balance humility with confidence in leading your team through the ongoing uncertainty | Mahan Tavakoli Partnering Leadership Insight

113 How to balance humility with confidence in leading your team through the ongoing uncertainty | Mahan Tavakoli Partnering Leadership Insight

In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli shares a key challenge facing leaders: the continuation of uncertainty concerning many aspects of work, including a return to the office. Mahan talks about the need for leaders to continue leading with great empathy with genuine humility on the exact future, yet confidence with the ability to navigate whatever lies ahead.  

Some highlights:

- Mahan Tavakoli explains why there is no going “back to normal”

- Empathy and conveying hope as leadership superpowers

- Balancing confidence and humility in leading teams forward

- On why continual learning is essential in the next era of work

- Continuing your leadership journey with a ‘learn it all’ mindset

- Leading with empathy and hope, Mahan Tavakoli Partnering Leadership Insight episode (Listen to this episode here)

- Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft

- Christopher Lochhead, author and podcaster

Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:

More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website:


Mahan Tavakoli:

Welcome to partnering leadership. I'm really excited to have you along with me on this journey of learning and growth. Where on Tuesdays, we have conversations with magnificent change makers from the greater Washington, DC DMV region, and then on Thursdays, brilliant global thought leaders, primarily leadership book authors, who is insights, I believe, can be impactful in how we lead our teams and our organization.

As you know, once a month, I share some of my own leadership perspectives based on what I'm seeing in interacting with some of the leaders I coach and some of the clients that I have with respect to consulting on how they should create their future vision of the organization and make that future vision a reality.

And one of the things that I see is the fact that we need to continue. Something I reflected on last December in my solo episode, which is the need for great empathy and for hope rather than naive optimism. Even some of the leaders that I coach were still naively optimistic when the vaccine came out, believing that there would be a return back to normal after people got the vaccine.

Posts Delta variant and post seeing the difficulty of bringing some of their team members back to the office environment. The leaders are realizing that there is no going back to normal. What we need to do is create a different future together. So the questions that the leaders asked me is, "okay, so are we supposed to do?" And my recommendation to them is twofold. 

Number one, we all need to have humility. With respect to what we have ahead. None of us know exactly what's going to happen in the future. And your teams also understand that they don't expect you to have the answers. So that humility needs to be sincere and needs to be part of how leaders approach their teams.


However, teams also look for their leaders to have confidence, not with respect to what's going to happen next, but with respect to the process that will be used to experiments and get to the right answers whether it's we'd return back to the office environment or anything else, it's not looking to the leaders to have the answers or certainty, but it's looking for the leaders to have clarity with respect to direction and confidence, with respect to how we are going to work together. So that's what people look for.

And one of the things leaders need to do even more when trying to approach their team members with that level of humility along with confidence is to embrace an ongoing growth mindset. One of the challenges I see is that many leaders have been overwhelmed with a lot of different things and find themselves saying, I really don't have much time to learn.

And at this point in time, I don't think we can afford not to learn, which is one of the reasons I am thrilled that you choose to listen to these episodes on Partnering Leadership, because you are showing that you are going to dedicate the time and you have the discipline to commit the effort to learn.

Satya Nadella says, "don't be a know, it all. Be a learn it all". And I think that is going to be more true in our future of work than it was even in the past year with a faster pace of change, we need to speed up our rate of learning and growth. 

And one of the things that happens with leaders as they stop learning and growing, is the fact that their blind spots also grow.

I really like Christopher Lochhead. He started category design. I've learned a lot from him at some point I will get him on the podcast, but I'll need to make sure to put an explicit rating on that podcast episode because Christopher Lochhead is a big fan of F-bombs and his language can be a little spicy at times.

Christopher Lochhead jokingly says, as only he can say and get away with is that "this is a dumb time to be dumb" and his point is valid. The fact that we have access to some of the best information, we do also have access to a lot of irrelevant information. The difference is we as leaders and as individuals can choose what information we consume.

And that's why you all are choosing to consume information from purpose-driven leaders, looking to impact their organizations and community on Tuesdays. Some of the most brilliant global thought leaders on Thursdays and that by itself will overtime shift the way you viewed the world around you and the value you bring and we'll help reduce your blind spots. Because one of the things I find is that in leadership, the more experience we have and the more positional power people have, the bigger their blind spots become, because the information that is passed onto leaders is to a certain extent, censored and the fact that our past experience and past success reinforces for us, that we know the answers. Therefore we become more resistant and hesitant to take on new information.

The need, therefore is to constantly challenge our own thinking, surround ourselves with people that challenge our thinking, and to constantly be a learn it all rather than a know at all.

I like a poem by a Persian poet who lived back in the 13th century and his name is Ibn Yamin. Ibn Yamin, the ending to his poem is that "one who doesn't know and doesn't know that he doesn't know, he will eternally be lost in his hopeless oblivion". Whether he, she, they, the point is the same that if we don't know that we don't know, we will be lost in hopeless oblivion.

In this Next era of work, therefore, humility is really important when it comes to having to write answers, however confident that we know how to get the right answers. We know how to work with our teams to experiment, to test, and get to the right answers. 

So as you're reflecting on this, continue with what I mentioned last year, leading with that empathy and hope and also. In moving into 2020 to reflect on the fact that your team will want you to have the humility The fact that you don't have the answers, however, the confidence that you know, where you're headed, so that clarity of direction and the confidence with respect to how we, as a team are going to work together to achieve that purpose. and that clear direction that we have in mind. 

So balancing all those is really hard and I truly understand it because I work with a lot of different leaders on an ongoing basis and know the many stresses that they face. Most importantly, though, continue what you have been doing with this level of a growth mindset. Continue being a learn it all rather than a know at all.

That's why I'm thrilled that you're coming along on this journey of learning and growth with me. Keep your comments coming I love hearing from you. 

There's also a microphone icon on partnering You can leave voice messages for me there. Don't forget to follow the podcast, that where you'll be sure to be notified of releases. Tuesdays with the Changemakers, Thursdays, with the thought leaders, and finally, those of you that enjoy these on Apple, leave a rating and review when you get a chance so more people will gain insights from the conversations, be able to become more effective and impactful leaders themselves for their teams, organizations, and have a greater impact on the community.