Effective leaders walk their L.I.N.E. This statement came to me in a Tuesday evening class at my church. We were studying, “It’s Just That Simple”, a book about love that was written by our minister, Reverend Dr. Doral R. Pulley. In this particular class we were learning the importance of self-love. Dr. Pulley said “In order to love yourself, you must know yourself. And to know yourself you must draw a L.I.N.E.” At that moment, it occurred to me that a similar truth applied to leadership. In order to lead, you must know yourself and walk your L.I.N.E.
L.I.N.E. is an acronym for Limitations, Issues, Needs, and Expertise. These are critical aspects of yourself that are important to discover and understand because they influence how you act and react in your daily interactions with yourself and others. In my recent blog post “Tis the Season for Giving”, I shared my new favorite mantra “You can’t give what you don’t have” which means you can’t really lead others if you don’t lead yourself first. The same applies with walking your L.I.N.E., you can’t really know others until you know yourself. Let’s examine each principle of the L.I.N.E. so we can understand how it applies to leadership.
Everyone, even superheroes, have limitations. Limitations are often referred to as weaknesses. These are the things that you don’t or have tried to do and can’t do well. Often these are those activities we abhor and try to find various ways to escape doing. For those of us who strive to be perfect, uncovering and admitting our limitations can be a tough pill to swallow. However, when you allow yourself to be aware of them it is quite freeing because you can stop wasting time trying to conquer them and stop beating yourself up/berating yourself for not being able to do them. For instance, one of my limitations centers on creating macros and charts in Microsoft Excel. I have tried on numerous occasions to master this skill by watching videos or asking colleagues to teach me, yet each time I try, I just can’t make it work. It’s very frustrating and I don’t enjoy it so it’s more effective for me to own that limitation and rely on someone else with a stronger Excel background to do that work for me. When you can understand your own weaknesses, you give others permission to do the same. Leaders are aware of and own their limitations.
In his book, ”It’s Just that Simple”, Dr.Pulley has an acronym for issue – Identified Situation Stretching Us Effectively. I love this perspective of an issue because so often we view them as working against us not for us. Just like limitations, we all have issues. I know there have been times in my life when I was sure that I had no hang-ups but that the people all around me were full of issues. I realized after much self-discovery and growth that this is my first sign that I have the challenge because deflection is a self-preservation mechanism. When I find myself discussing others’ issues, I take a time out and ask myself a tough question “Is it really them or is it you, Gina, that has the issue.” If I am being the leader of my life, I admit that it is mine, that there is an area of my life that needs me to stretch and I set about creating a corrective action to deal with the concern. Leaders are aware of, own and work on their issues.
Needs are a funny concept. Just listen to yourself and others during conversation and you will most likely hear the word need appear in many different contexts. I need more time, I need more sleep, I need more money, I need a better body, etc. etc. When we use the word need, we often use it in the context of something we lack and wish we could have. According to Abraham Maslow needs motivate us to act and keep us moving forward in life. In his work, Maslow identified 5 tiers of needs: physiological, safety, love and belongingness, esteem and self-actualization. If you are not familiar with this model, I highly recommend you research it because it is a great self-identification resource. Based on Maslow’s theory, needs are what cause you to act and you can’t up move up into the higher-level needs without your lower-level needs being fully met. It is critical that you grasp where you are in the hierarchy because knowing where you are and how you act provides insight into others and what drives them to act. Leaders are in touch with their needs.
These are the things that you do well. We often refer to our expertise as strengths. You know those things that come easily to you or that you have taught yourself and mastered with ease. Discovering our strengths can be just as uncomfortable as finding our weaknesses. If you are like me, if something comes easy to you that does not feel like an expertise, it just feels natural. However, what is easy for you is not easy for everyone else. I learned this lesson early in my career when my boss told me, “Gina, you have a knack for seeing how to solve a problem before I even finish telling you the challenge. How do you do that?” My response to him was “What are talking about?” I did not even realize I was doing that because even as a child finding better ways of doing things was just what I did. It is important to recognize and appreciate what you are good at because you were given those unique gifts to share with the world. Don’t be shy or too humble and hide your expertise. I have a tendency to do this and not only is it disempowering for me, it is for others as well. Leaders let their expertise shine proudly for the good of themselves and their team.
To be an effective leader of yourself or anyone else, you must be self-aware. Self-awareness comes from discovering and owning your Limitations, Issues, Needs and Expertise. Walk your own L.I.N.E. and encourage others to do the same.