I have alway thought about leadership as a sort of hero’s journey. The man out front with all the answers… taking action, leading by example. As I have moved through my life and into positions of leadership (both implicit and explicit), a have discovered that like beauty and art, leadership is more about whether the person receiving the “leadership” gets what they need from the relationship.
Many (if not all) of the people I can list as being leaders probably didn’t think they were taking a leadership role during that moment that I, the receiver, needed a leader. Whether it was through their actions, their words, or in many of the cases the in-action or knowing silence it allowed me to connect some ideas or skills together.
We like to think we have original ideas most of the time, but the truth is, we are just mashing together ingested information and compiling it into ever better (or worse) versions of Me 1.0. I think leadership works the same way. We take what we like from the leaders we like, combine that with ways we think might work better and apply, test, and adjust.
I was once a gym owner. And whether I wanted the title or not, it came with a certain responsibility to lead my community of members and staff. Did I always want the role or title? Nope. I like to think of myself as a high functioning introvert, and it was often an act of courage to deal with drama and the hard situations that often come with the title.
Do you choose to become a leader? Yes, I think so. Leadership is a hat you can put on, but I think it’s also a skill that follows a similar evolution as most skills from unconscious ignorance>conscious ignorance>conscious application>unconscious application. Of course, there is always room in that equation for raw talent and natural ability. Eventually though, you can get good enough at it that you embody the role. You are a leader.
I think the hardest part of the leader’s journey is the constant feeling that you made the wrong decision, gave bad advice or could have handled a situation better.
I have learned that if you’re getting it right 20% of the time, you’re probably doing okay, because you’re never really making the decisions alone. Two way trust is crucial, and if you don’t trust your team, or they don’t trust you, your role as a leader will always be compromised.
After all this reflection, I think about how I would like to change as a leader. Mostly I need to work on letting go of control. Maybe it’s a trust thing, or maybe it’s an efficiency thing, but I have a hard time passing off things that I know I can do myself. I need to get better at letting go and letting others shine in a role that they are good at and not holding on to small pieces of it to give myself the false sense of control.
Also published on Medium.