No One Told Me How Leadership Would Change Me

Check your bookshelf. Got any books that discuss how leadership will change you? Me neither.

How’s this for a title?

“Leadership, if it Doesn’t Kill You it Will Make You Stronger”

I didn’t wake up one day and decide, “you know what, I think I’ll try this leadership thing, I hear it’s really good for you and all the cool kids are doing it.” I was thrust into leadership because I needed a job. I think a lot of people get here the same way.

No one told me what would happen to me during this journey. No one said this is going to rock your world but it has most definitely done the rocking thing.

Maybe it changed me through circumstance and adaptation. Maybe it brought out stuff that was already inside me. But I can look at my life now, twenty-some years after I stepped into this role, and see a bunch of things I learned.

Like how to…

Expand my perception

Improve my focus

Increase my adaptability

Strengthen my resiliency

Loosen my grip

Drop my ego

Multiply my capacity

Overcome my fears

Tackle my problems

Manage my boundaries

Open my heart

Enhance my awareness

Increase my trust

Balance my life

Build my relationships

This isn’t everything but it’s a pretty good list. This is stuff that helps me in every area of my life. As difficult as leading can be, I feel pretty lucky that I was given this opportunity. And while everyone doesn’t need or want to be a leader, it is a pretty powerful motivation for self-improvement. You are probably called upon to lead somewhere. If not at work then in your community or family.

Here’s the thing, there is no doubt leadership will change you but you decide HOW it will change you.

Leadership will push you out of your comfort zone. It’s scary and hard. And there are only two ways to respond; you get bigger or you get smaller. Let’s break that down a little bit more.

You get smaller – manipulate, control, command, suppress, isolate

OR

You get bigger – engage, create, empower, express, connect

The direction you take depends on your orientation. If leading is about you and your success, glory, security, pride, career, whatever then you are going to focus inward and stay small. If leading is about serving others and the success of the organization then you’ll have to get bigger if you want to achieve that kind of impact.

Smaller = self + fear + scarcity

Bigger = others + courage + abundance 

The cool thing about the other (outward) orientation is that it takes care of you too. Maybe not 100% of the time but in the long run, you will have greater influence and be able to accomplish more which ultimately helps you be successful!

Let’s get back to the central theme. Leadership changes you because it forces you to learn and adapt. Some of this, of course, happens by what we affectionately call OJT. You pick some things up as you go along. The whole trial and error process. But the changes that really move you to the next level require intention and practice.

That’s why I’m still learning all the time. Reading books. Writing this blog. Talking to other leaders. Trying new things. Trying to get better. I want to grow not just in my vocation but as a person.

The way I see it, the more I grow as a person, the better I will perform as a leader. Maybe that’s why it changed me.

Now, I’m handing you the mic.

How has being a leader changed you?

Did your orientation affect your evolution?

What would you tell a new leader?

By the way, I actually did find one book on my shelf that helped me with this whole changing thing.

4 comments

  1. Excellent article about, as you note, a topic that has not been addressed in the literature as directly as you have done. In answer to your questions:

    Leadership has, I hope, made me bigger, enabling me to see the needs and desires of others and to help them achieve their goals (whether they be donors or my direct reports).

    Yes my orientation changed my evolution, I believe/hope that I am a very different person as a result of having been a leader).

    What would I tell a new leader? Find a mentor(s) or coach. I never realized that I did not have to do what I did without seeking the advice and counsel of others who had already traveled or were traveling on similar paths. Having hear the shared wisdom of others might have led me to act and react differently to a number of situations.

    Reply

  2. Wow, this is a very powerful post. Thank you for sharing your insights. I would tell the new leader—be confident but humbled. Be curious and continue to learn. There is always more to learn and improve. I am a lifelong learner.

    Reply

    1. Hi Dee – I am glad you enjoyed the post. Excellent advice!

      Reply

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