As you are driving, when you look back, using your side mirror, like the picture above, there is a warning "Objects are closer than they appear." This is an interesting concept when thinking about reflecting back on our life. Many say "don't look back.", but how can we not? The things that have happened in our life are "closer than they appear" because they are always there, whether we are conscious of it or not. Our past is what makes us who we are. It is never far away.
As I come to the close of my third year in my current position, it is time to reflect back on my time. It has been filled with many peaks and valleys. It has definitely stayed true to my blog site title: "Leading In Limbo". What lessons have I learned along the way? There are too many to list here today, and the learning continuous daily, hourly, constantly. So, for this post, I will replay my top 10 "Leadership Hits" that have helped stretch, shape and grow me forward.
1) Find the learning in everything: In leading, just like life, there are many ups and downs. Many wins and many falls. Regardless, it is important to always look for the lesson. This will help keep us in check...not let us get too high nor too low. What is our key purpose and how does everything tie in? In order to do this, one needs to be very reflective, often. When we work through this lens, it helps us stay in focus, stay in line.
2) Everyone is a leader: We are all leaders, we can't deny it. Many think that leadership comes with a title. I argue that. There are many with the title, that are not leaders and many leaders without the title. A leader is grown through action. A leader is one who champions for their people, who is in the trenches, who sees that spark in others and helps it shine. A leader creates a shared vision and a plan on how to reach it. A leader grows other leaders. They find the strengths in others and builds their capacity. "Talk" is very different than "Act". A true leader shouldn't have to tell, they just show.
3) Leadership is not a game of Solitaire: No one can lead alone...effectively. We have to include others. We need to have a team. Everyone has their own areas of strength, a well rounded leadership team is a much stronger force than an army of one. It is important to ask AND receive input from those in your charge. Do something with the input, show them that you HEARD and not just listened. Make sure to check those mirrors often. Look around, not only look behind you, but look next to you. If there is no one there, you are not truly leading.
4) You do you: Be authentic, no one can do it all and no one is perfect, so don't even try it. People can see through that. The leaders I gravitate to, are the ones that are real. They are great successes who share their paths of continued growth. They share their stories...their success stories, but even more powerful, they share their failure stories. When you are real, people will pull towards you. Part of being real, is being transparent. This doesn't mean you need to air your dirty laundry...it means say what you mean and mean what you say. That is the cornerstone of integrity and integrity goes a long way. Anyone can "talk the talk", but there needs to be action behind it. People will see through smoke and mirrors...eventually.
5) Newton's 3rd Law: This is a tough one. Since we are all leaders, we are always trying to do things to propel others forward. When doing this, I have learned that there is an equal AND opposite reaction. For the most part, people will stand behind you, stand with you. They will celebrate successes and grow with you. Unfortunately, there are the small few that will do the opposite. They will look at forward movement as a negative. They will try to hold you back...they will be the cloud to the light. They will nay say, roadblock, bully. This is when you need to choose to tune out the chatter and keep plowing forward if you believe in your purpose. This is when it is important to take stock in why you are doing what you are doing. Does the good for others out weigh the bad that is coming your way? In most cases, I would think yes. This is when you need to muster all of your strength and keep on moving...always forward.
6) Look behind the curtain: This was something I was not expecting. There is a "curtain". My Pollyanna brain was not prepared for this. Things are not always what they seem. At first, I really struggled with this. But once I decided that this was a real thing, I decided to use it for good. It is important to learn all sides of the things around you. We need to know the good, the bad and the ugly of what we are working with. We need to be informed, so we can make the best decisions. We may not agree, or even like what we see, or what we have learned, but it is important. We need to keep our eyes open and just learn. Use what we learn to guide us in our decisions, communications, our actions AND our non-actions.
7) Play to your strengths, hone your weakness: It is incredibly important to know ourselves. We need to know what we can bring to the table and what we can't. It doesn't do anyone any good to pretend. A good place to learn about yourself, is the Gallop Strengths Finder 2.0 It is pretty spot on in finding strengths. Once you know your strengths, it is important to know your weaknesses. In doing this, it is also important to find those who can fill in those gaps. Find others whose strengths match your weaknesses and observe and learn. Have humility and ask for help, ask to learn, team up. I have learned so much in working with others these past three years. I have gained much knowledge, not only in learning how to hone my weaknesses, but also my strengths. We just have to be open. We are all better together, let's work together and help each other stretch forward.
8) Find your tribe: This one is KEY. It wasn't until this last year that I found my tribe AND realized the importance. Your tribe is made up of people who will not only support you, but who will push you and stretch you. They are there to listen when your are down, and they are there to build you back up when you have broken. They are also there to help you grow beyond where you ever thought you could grow. They will challenge your thinking, your perspective...they will move you forward. BUT it is important that you do the same for them It can't be a one way street, you may think you have little to give...but everyone has something, so give big.
9) Lead with empathy: This one is a big one for me. I try to be empathetic in everything I do. Now it is important to recognize the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is 'feeling sorry for someone"...empathy is "feeling like someone". It is being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes. To think from their point of view. This is important because as a leader, we need to know who we are leading. We need to always take them into consideration when making decisions or planning actions. How will this affect others, no matter their "level"? This is not a guessing game, this comes from building authentic relationships, observing, ansking and listening. It takes time, but it is time must be spent.
10) Take stock...often: Reflect...a lot. Where are you, where were you, where are you going? What works, what doesn't work. What did you learn and how will you apply it? How can you use things that have happened to help others in their journey of growth? Share forward.
Well, those are just my musings as I reflect on the last three years. I have spent those three years trying to deny that I was any sort of "leader"...because I don't have a fancy title. But, I guess I have always been a leader, in some way or another, just like YOU. No matter your role, title, perception...look behind you and next to you...check those mirrors...there are people there...there are people that you help, that you guide...YOU ARE A LEADER! Own it! Lead Forward!!!
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.