Do you think of leadership as a goal that you may achieve and be good at one day? Ticking off a set of criteria (possibly by attending specific training courses) that get you to the end goal of “Being a Good Leader”? Are you putting additional pressure on yourself to be the best leader, as quickly as possible? Or criticising yourself if you make mistakes along the way? If we’re honest with ourselves, thinking like this will make leadership an unattainable goal – and we wouldn’t set a goal like that for one of our team!
I believe that great leadership is about continuous learning, one day at a time. You can never be taught or coached on every eventuality that could face you in the workplace and have a stock response for each. But learning skills that help you relate and communicate to those around you is vital, and can be utilised in any situation.
Additionally, if you don’t think you’re allowed to make mistakes, then you won’t give yourself the chance to learn effectively (or help your team to progress as they will be afraid to make mistakes too). By becoming self-aware, you will be able to notice when mistakes have happened and when it’s best to learn a new behaviour for the future.
There are billions of people, all with a different view of the world, all different from you. But by being attentive, you have the opportunity to inspire those around you at any time. And strangely, you may never know when you have made a big difference to someone else, or when you’ve said something that will stay with them and inspire them. (Think of someone who has inspired you – did you ever tell them?).
If you could change just one person’s understanding of what they could achieve, or show just one person that others care about them, is that not powerful and inspiring leadership? What difference could this make in the world?
Some of the most impactful moments in my career have been when a leader I trusted and respected said something that made me think differently, challenged me or said something encouraging that’s stayed with me and kept me going through the tough times. It’s not about long speeches or doing the right thing all the time; it’s leadership that is supportive and conveys that someone has confidence in you, your abilities and your potential (even if you were unaware of them yourself).
So, I think it’s time to take some credit for what you’ve achieved along the expedition of leadership. Knowing that leadership isn’t an end goal may help make it a less stressful challenge. Leadership is a stressful enough role without putting more pressure on yourself. And a less stressed leader will be better at self-awareness, understanding and appreciating diversity, helping those who fail to not feel like a failure; and therefore be available and able to inspire every day.