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
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.