There are certain things in life that you can’t fully comprehend or understand until you’ve experienced it… finishing a marathon, being married, having a child (or so I’ve heard), Disney World.
Leadership is also one of those things.
Growing up, I was always interested in the topic of leadership. I would ask my dad questions about it when I was young. I read books about it in high school. I minored in leadership studies in college. When I started my first job, I would take notes on things I learned from the leaders I worked for.
While I’m incredibly grateful for those opportunities to gain wisdom from great leaders over the course of my life, I couldn’t truly internalize them until I experienced them for myself.
1 – If everyone knew how hard it is to be a leader, they would choose to follow.
I used to think that leadership was easy. That was until I actually became one.
2 – Leaders learn how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I used to think that leaders never got overwhelmed. I’ve learned that feeling never goes away, but leaders learn how to manage it.
3 – Leadership is about moving forward when there’s no clear path to success.
I used to think that leaders always new that a plan would succeed. Now I know that there is always an element of risk involved in any leadership decision. That’s what keeps leaders grounded.
4 – Leadership isn’t about knowing the right answers; it’s about asking the right questions.
Growing up, we always look for leaders to have the answers. Once you’re in a leadership position, it can be tempting to think you should know the right answer to every situation… and incredibly frustrating when you don’t. Leaders aren’t supposed to have all the answers, but their ability to ask the right questions in order to find them is what sets you apart.
5 – Leaders don’t let success (or failures) define them.
I always marveled at the accolades and achievements of leaders I admired. However, one thing I’m learning is that basing your self worth on mistakes or accomplishments is a slippery slope. Great leaders see failures and success as learning experiences rather than life-defining moments.
6 – Great leaders are quick to own a mistake and redirect praise.
The leaders I respect most in this world are quick to take the arrows of criticism for their team when something goes wrong and
7 – Leadership isn’t about being the smartest person in the room.
I always thought that the leader was the one with the best ideas. However, one thing I’m learning is that the best leaders are ones that bring together people who might be smarter than them and inspiring them to act. In fact, if you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.
8 – Leadership is about “we” not “me.”
It’s not about how great you can be, it’s about how much you can empower others to be great.
9 – Leadership is about influence, not position.
When I embraced this mentality, I realized that being a CEO doesn’t make someone a leader and starting out at the bottom doesn’t keep you from being able to influence others.
10 – Leaders know how to fake it until they become it.
“Fake it ‘til you make it” was always a phrase that always bothered me… that was until I watched this TED Talk. We all feel under-qualified and incompetent. Confidence is what separates leaders from those who aren’t willing to step up.
Most of the things we’ve learned about leadership as Millennials have come from an outside perspective by watching and listening to the people we follow. Until we’ve reached that point, it can be easy to allow certain misconceptions to shape our definition of influence.
My hope is that we wouldn’t allow what we thought leadership was to keep us from stepping into what leadership is. There will always be times when we will feel uncertain or overwhelmed, but we must keep moving forward with confidence. There will be times when we fail, but we shouldn’t allow that to define us.
What are some lessons you’ve learned (or are currently learning) about leadership that you could only gain from experience?
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10 Things This Millennial is Learning About Leadership