Over the next three weeks, I will unpack different leadership descriptors in a series entitled Leadership is . . .
Today’s topic: Leadership is . . . a Journey.
The shift from individual contributor to leader can be a difficult transition. While it is true that leadership comes more naturally to some than it does to others, leadership is always a journey. Every step will bring new challenges. Early on, I was told, “What got you here won’t get you there.” This has proven to be one of the best insights into leadership I’ve ever received.
We develop skills and practices that help us to be successful in each new role we undertake. Then, when we encounter new opportunities, we often approach them using the same tactics that served us well in the past. To be sure, past experience is invaluable for a leader; many things we learn along the way will apply forever. However, as circumstances and responsibilities change, we must accept that new skills and a new approach will often be required. Accepting this helps us remain open to new ideas and willing to let go of our most familiar methods.
No matter where you are on your leadership journey, here are a few thoughts to remember:
- Stay open – The longer you lead, the more likely you are to become fixed in your approach. Resist this temptation and remain open-minded to new ideas and methods. Don’t be afraid to drop old ways that no longer serve you well, even if they once produced great results. It is also important to stay open to feedback from others, even feedback that may be difficult to hear.
- Ask for help – No single leader has it all figured out, but together we may just change the world! When you face hard things, ask for help. Seek counsel from others and apply what you learn.
- Be willing to let go – Especially for young leaders, it can be extremely difficult to let go of day-to-day execution. However, you can’t lead well if you’re tied up in the details. Leading effectively requires developing others and then letting them do their jobs. You may even find they execute better than you ever did; I know this has been true many times for me.
- Pursue development – Develop, develop, develop. One of our organization’s Unique Essentials is “GROWTH. Always.” Leadership author, Mark Miller, puts it this way: “Your capacity to grow determines your capacity to lead.” Progressing along your leadership journey requires constant growth; investing in personal development is critical on that front. (In a few weeks, Ricky Escobar will be writing more on this topic, you won’t want to miss it.)
Leadership is a journey; the approach that got you here won’t always get you there. Grow with each new opportunity and let go of what you no longer need. Where are you in your leadership journey? What are you holding on to that is no longer serving you well? Where do you need to ask for help? Journey on.