If you’re a seasoned leader who has had ongoing success, you might find it easy to rest on your laurels. If you’re an aspiring or “apprentice” leader, you might make the mistake of believing that leadership is a piece of cake. No matter where you are in your leadership career it can be, at times, harder than you imagine.
The truth is that most leaders were trained or educated in a specific job or career. Leading people is more than that. It’s a calling, requiring your continuous dedication to learning. Even if you’ve attended leadership development training, you still need to experience it in the workplace. It’s a “learn as you go” kind of thing, and what’s needed in one situation is different than what’s needed in another.
Learning to lead well asks a lot of you. You can’t expect to learn it out of a book or a workshop (although those can be good places to begin). It requires you to develop yourself on the job and in real time. This means you must be:
Awake and aware of how you behave and how others react to your behavior. Feedback is a great tool for learning to lead, but you won’t always hear everything you need to hear in order make changes to be at your best. Self-observations and observing how others react to you (how you behave) in the moment are good things to do. Taking notes to describe a situation, how you “showed up” and how others reacted is even better.
Agile and able to move and change quickly and easily while simultaneously learning from the activities, initiatives, and problems that you encounter. That’s a tall order when you consider the hyper-speed of the work arenas you work in. One of the most important activities you can do to increase your leadership agility is to self-reflect on a regular basis, on the specifics of what’s going well and what could be even better. Taking action on the things that could be better is essential.
Intentional behavior to influence those around you. Many leaders go through their days with their eyes closed, never thinking about their behavior. If you are one of those, the impact you make can be a crap shoot. When you stop to actually think about how you can manage yourself in a way that will have the best chance of assuring the outcomes you want, your success at influencing others will increase. So before that important meeting that requires you to influence stakeholders, take a few moments to think about how you want to be seen and then act on that.
Humble in the sense that you know don’t have all the answers. You will make mistakes, and you will need to learn from them. Humility brings an openness, a “beginners mind” that keeps you learning in the leadership game as long as you want to be in it. Look for new things to read and learn. Get feedback, take a class, hire a coach to help you stay humble and discover what you don’t know.
What is leadership asking of you? How are you answering?