Mostly, we think of leadership as epitomizing confidence. We lead, therefore we know. 

But beneath that is a deeper truth, an apparent weakness – vulnerability. But vulnerability can be a leader’s superpower. 

As Concord Leadership Group’s founder, Marc Pitman helps leaders lead their teams with greater effectiveness and less stress.  

His latest book is The Surprising Gift of Doubt: Use Uncertainty to Become the Exceptional Leader You Are Meant to Be.  

He’s also the executive director of TheNonprofitAcademy.com and an Advisory Panel member of Rogare, a prestigious international fundraising think tank. 

Marc’s expertise has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Al Jazeera, Fox News, SUCCESS magazine, and Real Simple.         

In this episode, Marc highlights bringing back the values and humanity into leadership other than just the mechanistic way of leading. 

What you will learn from this episode: 

  • Find out about the map to leadership, so you know what stage in the four quadrants of leadership you are and learn to manage yourself and your team so you move forward 
  • Learn about actionable tips to help in your personal journey as a leader and as a team as you navigate the world of the unknown 
  • Learn to find strength in vulnerability and transparency to make that your point of progression in leadership   

Consider, I’ll just say, consider listening to… that doubt, that confusion – ‘internal’ we’ve been told is subjective. It’s emotions and that’s bad. … try to think of them as a partner.”  

Marc Pitman

Topics Covered:

02:04 – Bringing values and humanity back to business leaders 

03:05 – Helping leaders face the challenge of the unknown 

05:16 – The map to leadership and the two axis  

07:11 – Why feeling doubt is never a moral failing or sign of weakness for leaders 

08:20 – How uncertainty and self-doubt help you figure out how you are as an individual and understand others more 

10:23 – The two personality assessment tools to help leaders in their goal-setting 

12:05 – Looking at the map — the four quadrants of where you are to help you progress as a leader and as a team 

14:23 – Should everybody be open about their doubts and share them widely with people? 

16:43 – Permitting yourself to think you’re the perfect person in the leadership role 

Key Takeaways:

“Some of the best leaders feel like, they must doubt, is a moral failing or a sign of weakness. And it could be that you need professional help, and there’s no stigma in that. There are a lot of places to get help. But it could also be that you’re really on the verge of greatness.”

“Knowing that there’s a map, figuring out where you are, where’s your process on the four quadrants, and then how do you best be in that quadrant? And not try to short circuit your growth.”

“There’s strength in vulnerability and being vulnerable. But I would caution leaders to be vulnerable in safe spaces only. Not everybody has your best interests at heart. There are employees or people in your team that are gunning for you.”

If you’re wracked with this nagging sense of you’re not the right person for your job, just give yourself permission to think, well, maybe I’m the perfect person for this because most leaders that I see are really well-meaning and wonderful individuals who don’t wake up in the morning trying to figure out how they can mess up people’s lives.”

Resources: 

Connect with Marc Pitman:

Full Episode Transcript:

Marc Pitman   

Consider, I’ll just say, consider listening to that which we’ve been told we shouldn’t, feelings or that doubt, that confusion — internal we’ve been told is subjective. It’s emotions, and that’s bad. You should… let the emotions be the caboose and let your goals and your attention be the engine of the train, and the emotions will follow. And try to think of them as maybe a partner. 

Bruce Ross   

Hello, and a very warm welcome to another edition of Unshakeable Leadership. My name is Bruce Ross, and it’s my privilege to have the highly regarded Marc Pitman with us here today. Marc, a very warm welcome to you, Sir. Whereabouts in the world are you?  

Marc Pitman   

I’m in Greenville, South Carolina.  

Bruce Ross   

Fantastic.  

Marc Pitman   

Wishing I were in New Zealand. 

Bruce Ross   

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So, the world is such a different place. So, a little bit of background on Marc. Marc is an extraordinary individual. So, as the Concord Leadership Group’s founder, Marc helps leaders lead their teams with greater effectiveness and less stress. His latest book, The Surprising Gift of Doubt: Use Uncertainty to Become the Exceptional Leader You Are Meant to Be is powerful, and highly insightful, is also the executive director of the Non-Profit Academy, and an advisory panel member of Rogare, a prestigious international fundraising, Think Tank. Marc’s expertise has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Al Jazeera, Fox News, Success Magazine, and Real Simple. Now, I think one of the distinguishing factors for you, Marc, is that you are an expert in nonprofit and fundraising, which is very different from the typical commercial sector. Help us understand leadership, leadership net environment, leadership under extreme pressure, give us some insights. 

Marc Pitman   

Well, part of it is I’ve always been a leadership guy, but I fell into nonprofits and fell in love with nonprofits. And so, I just was talking to a chamber of commerce earlier, and from the time of this recording, and I was able to say, I help nonprofits try to bring revenue because fundraising is so scary for nonprofits. And it’s not the first reason that they get into starting a nonprofit, usually. And I bring values and humanity back to business leaders because so often we get into this mechanical way of being a leader that we forget the humanity that we bring to the table; the number of times I’ve had leaders come to my intensives and be able just to start their own goal setting exercise and then having them, they’ll call me over and say, ‘This is like this gardening thing, it’s not a business goal. Okay, that I write it down as one of my goals?’ Yeah, it’s your goal. And it’s amazing to see them sort of almost reinflate as humans again, instead of just worker bees or something. 

Bruce Ross   

So, is that the biggest challenge that you help leaders face? 

Marc Pitman   

Well, I think one of the commonalities in that is that the higher you go in leadership, at least in how it’s structured in the West, the more isolated you get. You start out, and there’s always somebody you can go to and look to, there’s a teacher that can tell you, ‘No, you didn’t do your homework, right? There’s a coach to tell you, you know, you get to play within the lines.’ But the more responsibility you’re given, the more freedom you’re given; it gets really lonely. And one of the things that I find so many leaders in business and nonprofits are, they want someone to tell them just, are doing it right or not. And as a leader, that can be really vulnerable, because you’re supposed to be the one in the know, you’re the lead dog, you should, you’re supposed to know the direction and what we project as leadership is confidence. You’re supposed to; we have this kind of stoic representation of confidence. It means you don’t ask any questions, and you’re self-sufficient. And you’ve got it all figured out. So, I think that’s one of the biggest challenges is; most leaders don’t realize that leaders are typically dogged without. There’s typically out there; there’s so much unknown even, you know, whatever the situation, but the recent pandemic is yet another example of unknowns. And that’s just, that’s part of the joy of leading, and it’s also part of the scariness of leading. So, just figuring out who’s the safe person to go to, to get that, to check in, and doesn’t have to be a paid person. But it’s, I think one of the biggest challenges is that isolation that is built into the system. It can be really awkward when leaders start getting vulnerable with their staff because that could send a lot of rippling net doubt in the staff of, wait to save the job is to be here still. It can be messy at first, or if done wrong, and sending, you know, if you have a Board of Investors or Board of Directors, you don’t necessarily want to look doubtful or explore things verbally with them. 

Bruce Ross   

If you’re talking about isolation and doubt, extreme doubt and leaders live in the unknown. Their job is to lead into a new place, which is, by definition, unknown, and they’ve got their own human quirks and foibles. What’s the solution? 

Marc Pitman   

Well, here we go for the solution… This is going to solve everybody’s problems. Now, part of what happens is, what I like to share is that there’s a map to leadership. And most of us are only given half the map; we don’t even know there’s a map. But if we know that, if we’re aware of some sort of journey, we’re only given half of it. So, if you think about two axes, one is confidence down to unsure. And the other is external cues to internal cues. So, it’s how confident you are. And where do you take your inputs? Are you turning to them externally or internally? We start on the confident external because people think of us; they think we’ve got what it takes. And they see that in us. And so, we’re, or we’re finally thrilled that somebody actually recognized that, hey, we got some leadership ability. So, we start mimicking what we’ve seen other people do. And that’s quadrant one leadership where we’ve observed it, but then when it doesn’t work and so we’ve got that nine doubts. So, we go into the experiment team, where we still look externally, see all the different books and tapes, and you know, seminars and rallies or whatever. But I think it’s finding the other half of the map where you look internally, where you let that doubt be that invitation to you instead of thinking maybe I’m broken. I must be broken, I must need to have somebody else do this job, wondering, well, maybe there’s something that, there’s a gift to me in this. What would I do if I actually did it my way? What would this organization look like if we actually didn’t try to start to keep copying everybody else in the sector, but we were true to what we said we were setting out to do. And that’s where I think leadership becomes amazing, an amazing discovery. And you can move through quadrant three, which is that observed stage, and then you can go out. You can go up to quadrant four, which is a more focused leader because you realize there’s a whole map, and there are different times to be in the different quadrants based on different situations you’re facing. 

Bruce Ross 

So, you are recommending the journey of leadership is really taking more the or recognizing the internal cues and working with those? 

Marc Pitman   

Yeah, and some of the best leaders feel like they must doubt it is a moral failing or a sign of weakness. And it could be that you need professional help, and there’s no stigma in that. There are a lot of places to get help. But it could also be that you’re really on the verge of greatness. You’re being invited to bring something else to leadership, to lead in your organization and your department, whether in a middle manager or to your sector, that hasn’t quite had that voice or that spin or that perspective brought to it before. This gets back to the first question or an earlier question, which is the scariness of, but we’re making this up. We never we don’t see anybody else doing this. Is there any there? It can be, you know, is this going to be successful? 

Bruce Ross   

Hmm. Fascinating. So how, because I would say that you start talking about uncertainty, you’re talking about self-doubt. And on the one hand, it could be healthy, because you don’t want just to drive off and do silly things. But on the other hand, it can be debilitating. How do you work with them? 

Marc Pitman   

I have found, and personally, and why I became an executive coach because it was the coaches that helped me more than the consultants. Consultants would come into my workspace give me a formula that was supposed to work and seem to work for everybody else. It didn’t work for me when I did it. And so that just compounded the ‘I’m not cut out for this.’ ‘I’m not the right person.’ Coaches helped me figure out how I am as an individual. What are my passions? What are my values? What are my hardwiring? What’s my personality styles? How, all the different, what are my goals? What are the stories I tell myself? And as I got better at understanding myself, I could appreciate the difference in others. And I could see where, how to craft my environment. You know, I’m an extroverted person. So, details like bookkeeping are not going to be my strong suit. But I still have to do those things as a business leader. That’s just what you have to do. And there are very big ramifications if you don’t. So, taking the time to become a place of I need to set more time aside; it always takes longer to do the paperwork I feel like I should. But so, as a leader, where do you need that margin and where’s the natural place for you and also being able to identify what brings you energy. For extroverts. It could be talking like this. For introverts, it could be being in a quiet space and reading a book, but all sorts, you know, it’s kind of trying to find those aspects about yourself as a leader in your organization, because it’s the same way. Some organizations respond really well to checklists to do; other organizations are more narrative and learning to try enough as you go and then build that trust where you can look in the back rearview mirror and realize it’s worked for us in the past, it’s not guaranteed to work for us in the future, but we seem to be doing things this way. So, it’s a messy, wonderful organic structure as opposed to a mechanistic, ‘Do this, then do this, then do this.’ 

Bruce Ross 

Yeah, it does because my discovery around goal setting is that my anticipation would be linear. But of course, it never ends, which is more of a mechanistic approach. But what you’re saying is, it’s more or not a self-discovery. 

Marc Pitman   

There are linear parts that can be helpful. Okay. So, once I was asked, well, what if part of quadrant three there’s about 12 different tools, what I call quadrant three, which is the analyze step of exploring for yourself or exploring for an organization. The three big ones are hardwiring, identity, and goal setting. So hardwiring is how you behave, DISC as the assessment I use, introvert-extrovert people task? Why do you behave that way? Like, what are the abilities, the cognitive abilities you have? I use the highlands ability battery for that. Twenty tests under time pressure. So, it focuses… you just, what comes naturally to you. And then motivational hardwiring, what are the stories you’re telling yourself? What motivates you to behave that way, which for me, has been a helpful tool, has been the enneagram. So, depending on where people are at, I can use one of those three assessments or frameworks to help them figure it out, but that’s in quadrant three, there’s deep learning that’s going on in quadrant two or quadrant one. When you’re just looking at external cues, that can just become labels that you throw on people — oh, you’re a D, I or you’re an S, C. No, you can’t do that because you’re just a… and it becomes limiting and confining, as opposed to observational and liberating. So, the same tools, depending on where your growth stages, could have different results. 

Bruce Ross   

So, this is going to sound like you’ve already asked the question, but share with us actual tips. And what I’m interested in here is because you’re saying that it’s the internal cues. But as a leader, your job is to assist others to grow their leadership capabilities. So, I guess there are two elements to my request. And that is actionable tips for a leader listening to this podcast. Now, what can I do to help myself in my personal growth journey, and how can I help my colleagues and all my team. 

Marc Pitman   

So, I would say probably the actual tip is to consider, I’ll just say, consider listening to that which we’ve been told we shouldn’t, feelings or that doubt, that confusion — internal we’ve been told is subjective. It’s emotions, and that’s bad, you should… let the emotions be the caboose and let your goals and your attention be the engine of the train, and the emotions will follow. And trying to think of them as maybe a partner in this or look at somebody who seems to be struggling and try to find this out. And I’m not saying give them free permission to be unstructured or give yourself that way. You’re a leader, or a staff member in a job; you have a job description and a role that you have to do. Nobody gets that out, you’re hired for a purpose, and you need to be doing your job. Within that, figuring out, I think the actual tip would be to look at the map, the four quadrants, and just see where we are in this, or where this person is. And then there are some questions that can be added to offer your audience, just to analyze ways that I can be best in this quadrant. So, if you’re managing someone, and they seem to be losing confidence in their own ability, when they say, walk, and turn around, nobody’s following them, which drives you down. And so maybe there are some books that they can listen to or some speakers or podcasts like yours or other things that they can do to help equip themselves. If they’re in their exit, the analyze stage, then there are different tools if they’re focused. But knowing that there’s a map is for me, the actual thing is figuring out where you are, where’s your process on the four quadrants? And then how do you best be in that quadrant? And not try to short circuit your growth?  

Bruce Ross   

Okay. Okay. So, I get that there is a bit of a map with regards to those four quadrants. And inside of that, there is that self-discovery. Okay.  

Marc Pitman   

Yes, yes. And is it right to share the link? So, concordleadershipgroup.com/focusedleader/ has that assessment, not really an assessment, it’s a worksheet, you get a short explanation of the four quadrants, and then kind of questions are things to consider in each quadrant. And it can become a really powerful management tool for managing a team or managing yourself. 

Marc Pitman   

Fantastic. I’ll make sure that’s in the show notes beneath. And my last question is, what is the question that I should have asked you? And your answer?  

Marc Pitman   

Wow. That is, I love that question. In this case, it should be. So, wait, Marc, are you saying that everybody should just be open about their doubt and sharing it widely with people? And I know there’s been a lot of research on vulnerability, and that’s there’s strength in vulnerability and being vulnerable. But I would caution leaders to be vulnerable in safe spaces only. Not everybody has your best interests at heart. There are employees or people in your team that are gunning for you. Sometimes some of us work in toxic environments. Some of us have created toxic environments to work, and some of us who work for ourselves are toxic bosses. We’re self-employed individuals who work for a jerk. So, we need to find out who are the safe people. And so that has helped the people I work with and myself too because not everybody has the right to speak into my life. Certain people can say criticism, I always want to grow, I always want to refine, but certain criticism is just, there’s some sort of guard up when people are giving it to me. But then there are certain people that I have respect enough to let in because they’ve proven themselves trustworthy. They don’t seem to have an ulterior motive. And they seem to want to grow me. And those are the people that I check in with. And it may be some people have called this a personal board of advisors; you might have four or five people that even if they don’t know it, you’re the ones that are checking in with them on a regular basis. Or you could formalize it even more. But it doesn’t have to be that. It’s just, I think, even having one source for one person that you’re, it could be a peer. It could be another CEO, another leader, another organization at the same level, just to help you realize, okay, if I’m crazy, at least I’m not crazy alone. Other people are thinking similar things that can be a huge lifeline, and give you a lot of resiliency in whatever environment you’re working in. 

Bruce Ross   

Absolutely. So, uncertainty is part of being human. But make sure you surround yourself with people who support your growth. And then that’s where the transparency, the vulnerability, is useful.  

Marc Pitman   

Yes, very good summation.  

Bruce Ross   

Oh, wow. Okay. I was going to say, hey, don’t mean a bottom line. Okay. My last, and it’s an unscripted question, if there’s a final message that you’d like our listeners to dwell on as we depart this podcast, what would it be? 

Marc Pitman   

I would really like you to consider, you’re listening, that, especially if you’re wracked with this nagging sense of you’re not the right person for your job, or you’re fit to think about your position, or maybe you started the wrong initiative to take that. And if you can set it aside and wonder, just give yourself permission to think, well, maybe I’m the perfect person for this. Maybe the only reason this company exists is because I was the one who saw the need. And what does that mean? You know, maybe I’m just trying to copy other people. And try to be the other examples that I read about? And what would it be if I lead like I do? Give yourself space to just be in the quietness of your own, you know; however, you do your own processing at your desk or whatever. Give yourself permission, because most leaders that I see are really well-meaning and wonderful individuals who don’t wake up in the morning trying to figure out how they can mess up people’s lives. And so, they really want to do well. And so, giving yourself permission to figure out what that looks like for you, I think, would be what I leave you with, hopefully. 

Bruce Ross   

Excellent. Wow. So, the whole journey, I understand leadership has to do with people and connection. And you have just given a different level of subtlety and nuance into that internal prompting, self-doubt. I’ve never had self-doubt talked about in such a way that it could actually be an indicator or a data point to your progression. So, this has been extraordinary. I’d like to thank you very much, Marc. On behalf of our listeners and myself. It has been a fantastic conversation. And I highly recommend to our listeners, go to Marc’s website, the show notes will have all of those details, Concord Leadership, and you’ve got that, it’s focused leadership, the assessment you’re talking about earlier, wasn’t it? 

Marc Pitman   

Yeah, the four quadrants worksheet. Yeah, it’s https://concordleadershipgroup.com/focusedleader/. 

Bruce Ross   

Fantastic. So, thank you very much.  

Marc Pitman   

A pleasure to be here.  

Bruce Ross   

Thanks very much for checking out the Flowpreneur Unshakeable Leadership podcast. If you like what we’re doing here, please head on over to iTunes, subscribe, rate us and leave a review. We’d very much appreciate that. Now, if you’re actually wanting to expand your leadership capability and deepen your impact in the world, that is, be a better you both at work and home, then I invite you to attend a live online Flowpreneur demo, where I’ll be sharing pure content, and with nothing to buy. You can find all the details for this at peakperformancedemo.com. Repeating, peakperformancedemo, all one word, dot com. Until next time. Be bold! 

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