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On Authenticity and Leadership

Pattern Breaking

Do you know the patterns that are holding you back?

I don’t mind making mistakes. I honor mistakes - a mistake is an opportunity to grow and to learn, but we don’t always see them as that. I am not talking about making a serious mistake when driving at the freeway; I’d rather avoid them. I am talking about the small mistakes that happens often, maybe many times a day. Mistakes that repeat themselves. Patterns.

The look in the eye of my business partner that I take as acceptance of an idea proposed - but forget to reality-check. The meeting that goes nowhere, where I check out mentally, enjoying a little time off in the middle of a hectic day. The calendar invitation I accept though I know I have neither time or bandwith to contribute in a constructive way.

These things and many like them don’t just happen once - they happen all the time, and for most people. They are patterns that hold us back - either from being more productive, or from being less stressed or hung up.

Make room for change

These patterns are not that hard to break. They are little accumulated mistakes, patterns that may have had good reason to be there at one time, but now are just old habits waiting to be broken.

When I assume my business partner and I are in agreement, I will verify it. When a meeting numbs me, I will say so or leave it (risking being seen as rude). When an invitation overloads me, I will say “no” and offer a gentle explanation.

Watch out for patterns. Some are good and sustains your life and your productivity; eating well, brushing your teeth, going to the gym. Some are remnants from the past that no longer have a purpose, and the should be broken. Maybe it’s time to introduce a pattern of pattern breaking!

Break the pattern

To break a pattern, we must have the motivation. The old chinese saying “If we continue down the road we’re going, we will end where it’s heading” can be very motivating; what will this pattern lead to in the end?

To break a pattern. we must also have the courage to do so. If you don’t know what to say, or how to do it, or if you are afraid of hurting others, you probably won’t break the pattern. Help from outside may be needed.

To break the pattern, you must recognize it. Fish don’t see the water, and we don’t see our patterns. When you are not aware of your patterns, you can’t change them. Pattern recognition and pattern breaking are core skills for authentic leaders. It takes curiosity to see your own patterns and courage to break them - and the work will make you feel vulnerable when you are changing. Just like hermit crabs are vulnerable when they have outgrown their former shell and need move to a bigger shell. When you recognize an unproductive pattern and changes it - while being open about it - you allow others to do the same. This can trickle down and create more room for everybody in the organization. Room to navigate, create and innovate.

Watch 4 minutes of hermit crabs changing shells - and imagine what would happen in your team or organization if everybody got a little more empowerment!

Asger Steenholdt