Once upon a time, I was managing a team of direct-reports and leading cross-functional teams of other leaders. I believed that I had to be the best, in other words perfect with all the answers, to show my leadership. That almost sounds admirable and harmless when you don't know any better. I felt obligated to lead conversations and always have input and appropriate objections. I spoke up way too much and I faced a lot of conflict with this approach. I was clearly trying to prove myself when in fact, I didn't need to. I had already earned the leadership position. And I was leaving no room for my team or other leaders to even exist. I was also inhibiting creativity and innovation. We work in teams to expand our capabilities and I was limiting it to my capacity.
Did you know there is power in knowing what you know and what you don't know? It might sound like common sense but I thought I had to show confidence and that seemed counter productive to admit what I don't know. Turns out, it's more admirable to say, "I'm not sure about that but I'll look into it" versus saying "yes, we got it, no problem!" Acting overconfident is more dangerous than it is helpful. I wish I better understood that from the start.
I'll never forget this time because it was a pivotal tipping point in my career. In fact, when I see others conducting themselves the way I used to, I still cringe. I didn't know any better and they probably don't either. The moment I stopped talking and became an expert observer is when I actually started to become a good leader. It was then I could finally see everyone at the table. I had to get comfortable with what I knew and what I didn't know and how to leverage the knowledge of those around me. My strengths were in problem-solving, not having all the answers. Leveraging a team simply expands the possibilities. I was there to lead them to seek answers and teach them to challenge assumptions and verify facts. I needed to teach them how, not what. I needed to give them the tools and the space to create possibilities themselves, safely make mistakes, learn from them, and grow and self-develop.
This was the beginning of my own transformation into leadership. Once it started to sink in, I felt an incredible weight lifted off of me. It was scary to let that go because I worked so hard to get to the top, become an expert, and it's what I knew. But realizing that now my purpose was to ignite the potential of others and truly serve as a leader, I became overwhelmed with gratitude. I've had so many great mentors throughout my career that have helped me become who I am today. Now I can do this for others. And I'll never forget what it took for me to get to where I am today.
My goals to be perfect and have all the answers were also wrong. They were driven by old beliefs and misaligned intentions. My goals needed to focus on what each leader needed to lift them up to achieve their goals. Perfection should never be a goal for anyone.
What do you believe to be true about you and your life, personally and professionally? These beliefs impact everything. Try writing them all out and determine if they're based on facts, hopes, dreams, fear, or inherited? Some of these beliefs may be embedded from your culture or family upbringing. Get curious and question them all. Are they obligations? Do they serve you or others first? How do they influence your decision making and your ability to remain objective as a leader?
Your ability to connect with your truth and purpose is equal to your capacity to connect with others. In other words, the more you know yourself, the more others can connect with you and the better leader you can become.
In conclusion, I was missing the right mindset to be a great leader because I was self-centered and unaware of my underlying beliefs and intentions guiding my decisions. Now, as a consultant and brand strategist and many moons later, I have had the honor and pleasure of helping lots of diverse leaders grow their personal and professional brands while developing their leadership skills to make a greater impact.
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