Leadership and Life – Walking the Fine Lines

Travel around the sun a few times and you learn things. If I’ve learned anything traveling my journey around the sun (I’ve done it 65 times), I see people all around who trip on the fine lines. What do I mean? I am talking about those oh so subtle differences between things that are very good and those that are just plain bad.


Life requires us to walk fine lines every day. Leadership demands great execution on walking fine lines.

Here are a few examples.

Coaching clients occasionally ask me how to become more confident. This is particularly true in younger, less experienced managers who have been promoted into bigger jobs. They think they have the experience it may take but are easily embarrassed when sitting at the “bigger table”. Having confidence in your own ability is important.

By building your confidence, you can represent your team or your cause with greater authority and thus increase your influence. However, too much confidence crosses the line and becomes arrogance.

Not long ago I received a note from someone in my tribe who shared his concern for getting hired by the right company. He proceeded to tell me all about his accomplishments and his attributes. The list turned out to be a long one. The more he explained the more arrogant the tone became. Clearly, there was some emotion tied to the message. What could have been an appropriately confident message became a rant of arrogant nature.

I advised the young man to check his motives and emotions, sharing directly with him the way the tone turned me off. The logical presumption was that if he spoke with hiring managers this way, it would be easy to see why he doesn’t get offers.

Be Like Mike

Another fine line is the balance between aspiring to behave like certain people versus becoming them. If you identify with a particular person and say to yourself “I’d like to be more like them.” you can grow and learn. But if you cross the fine line and decide “I will BE them.” you fail. You can never be someone else; that job is taken.

You can, however, learn from others’ behaviors and add to your own skill sets and values.

Yet by trying to be someone you are not, you lose your own identity. Going too far away from the core of who and what you are can be detrimental. In our world of rapid response and social media, we get bombarded with FOMO messages. Fear of missing out clouds our lines of sight for the true and essential people we should be.

Making Adjustments

When you think you need to make an adjustment, often there is another fine line. Correct too much and you veer out of control.

I learned this training for my pilot’s license. Most aircraft are designed to fly. Strange concept right? But seriously, they fly very well, almost without a human pilot. When I get behind the stick, I may have a tendency to over-correct for adjustments in need to make in pitch, trim, and speed. Learning how to fly straight and level is harder than you might think. Yet if I can get the plane positioned on the course I choose, I can trim the flight controls and take my hands off the stick. It runs much smoother that way.

But if I am constantly chasing the horizon or turning off course, I waste precious flight time. Too severe an adjustment up or down, left or right and the flight is not as smooth as it could be.

The same is true in life. Make tiny adjustments when you think you need to make any adjustments. Let the change you make take hold. See where you’re going.

Make Your Own List

I’m guessing I only scratched the surface of fine lines you can think of. Share a few more in the comments. Hit the like (or not).

PS – As I am wrapping this up, I had another example of making small adjustments. I was out pulling my small utility trailer which I use helping folks with odd jobs. It’s a smallish trailer so backing it up can be tricky. The motions to back it in a straight line are ever-so-small. Too much correction and I can jack-knife the trailer in a heartbeat. Try it yourself one day. It’s a great picture of how over-steering can lead you way off course.

Introducing the WHY.os. Learn YOUR why, how, and what that drives your passion and motivation.


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