An emerging leader is one that is in a hurry to make their mark on the world. They want their team to succeed, their organisation to flourish and their own personal development to be fast tracked – by yesterday!
This reminds me of my son’s rush to get to the top of a waterslide. As he entered the stairs, he looked up at the people screaming and laughing as they came down. He knew he wanted to be on that ride, although with some trepidation. But on the way up he missed some signs – there were in fact three rides using the same stair set. He ended up on a ride he didn’t want to be on. The result – tears, having to start over again and, in his eyes, wasted time. But once we talked about it, he realised his mistake. Outcome – many happy rides for the rest of the day!
This is like the rise of a leader. Along the way there will be tears, you will miss some signs, but hopefully you have a mentor at the bottom waiting for you to help you out and turn you around.
As a coach, I encourage the individuals and teams I work with to understand that the learning of skills is about being present in the moment. It is about understanding what is going on around you and not missing the signposts. Leadership is another skill that needs to be learnt, honed, mastered.
Mistakes along the way are a given in learning. If you are not making mistakes then you are either not being true to yourself and pushing your limits, or you are not attuned to the skill and missing valuable opportunities for learning.
As an emerging leader, here are three lessons I have learnt along the way. I hope you can recognise and learn from as a fellow leader.
- Embrace your mistakes
“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – Thomas Edison when talking about inventing the light bulb.
Mistakes are an important part of learning and I have made many along the way. Some have cost me more money than others! But it is what you do after making a mistake as a leader that is telling of your leadership style.
Embracing your mistakes means that you need to follow a process similar to below:
- Acknowledge you have made the mistake.
- Understand why you made that decision.
- Seek out who has been affected by that decision.
- Decide on a new course of action.
- Talk with those affected about steps 1-4 and implement the new course of action.
By going through these five steps, not only will you have a deeper understanding of why you made that mistake, but you will also gain respect from those around you. Those you lead or your customers can often see the mistakes you make, they are just waiting for your acknowledgement.
- Build the best team
Building a great team is firstly about the people, not your leadership. You must set your ‘bar of awesomeness’ high and never recruit below that bar.
The bar of awesomeness is a line in the sand for the values you are looking for in a team member, the work ethic you need, and the general fit of skills and attitude for your team.
If you are desperate to recruit and you compromise with someone, recruiting below your bar of awesomeness, this will be detrimental to your team. This one person has the potential to drag the rest of your team down. Have you ever worked in a team where everyone has that one colleague who drives everyone nuts, doesn’t complete their work and people wonder how they got the job? Yep, someone didn’t set their bar of awesomeness high enough.
As a leader, have patience in your recruitment and if no-one meets your bar of awesomeness then don’t recruit. The rest of your team will thank you for it!
- Be strategically patient
Strategy is about understanding your long-term objectives. Often as an emerging leader we are impatient to be successful with what is in front of us right now. Frequently this is wasted effort. Ever heard the saying – ‘Sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war’? An emerging leader has many battles each day to fight. These battles are around time management, working on the business or in the business, staffing issues – the list goes on.
Understanding your “why” is important here. Knowing why you do what you do and having a clear sense of purpose will help you to pick your battles. Pick your priorities day-by-day, week-by-week based on the war you are trying to win, not the battle in front of you.
Making mistakes is part of the learning process. But often, being able to acknowledge and understand where you have gone wrong requires mentors and a great network around you. This is where I believe organisations like AIM are so important. The ability to surround yourself with high quality leaders who can provide guidance and mentoring is invaluable.