There’s an old adage that you can’t love another until you love yourself. The same principle is true for leadership. Becoming a leader begins with you.
Once Upon a Time…
As a young manager, I approached my general manager with the idea of promoting a member of my team. My general manager listened patiently and then asked me what I knew about the teammate’s character choices at and outside of work. I knew he was at times a loose cannon, drank a lot, and caroused. But he was charismatic at work; everybody liked him, and he usually got the job done.
A Tale with a Lesson
My GM then asked me why we should leave our company in the hands of someone who couldn’t manage his own affairs. I told him it was because I believed work and home were unrelated, and I was certain my candidate could do the job. My GM approved the promotion telling me if I felt strongly enough I might make it work and if not it would be a good lesson for me.
The End of this Story
It didn’t work. I was forced to fire him because he didn’t always keep his promises to his direct reports, occasionally he would lash out, and his focus was self-centered concentrating on what was best for him not what was best for the team. My GM was right; my candidate wasn’t ready to lead. He needed to learn to lead himself first.
A New Beginning
The key to guiding yourself from managing people as if they were projects to inspiring your teammates to reach levels of performance they didn’t realize were possible—is continuous learning. One of the traits of a true leader is they never quit trying to be a better leader. Are you ready to take on the challenge? Is it time to improve your leadership skills? Do you want to be a better leader?
Leaders Aren’t Born, and They Don’t Happen Overnight
Becoming a better leader, developing into a person that inspires women and men to do greater things than they would have without your direction, isn’t something that just happens. The path to becoming a leader is long and difficult. It’s filled with roadblocks and setbacks, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Every step on your leadership odyssey brings you closer to the light.
Becoming a true leader is a challenging and ongoing process. There may be times when you think you’re not cut out for the job. If you care about people, if you get a thrill out of watching others grow, and if building a successful team motivates you, then you’re the right women or man for the job.
Breaking bad habits, changing your mindset, and learning to lead begins by accepting you’re not the best leader you can be.
Leaders make mistakes. That’s okay. It’s going to happen. But there are two things that can be done, learn from your mistakes and avoid the mistakes of others.
Are You Becoming a Leader?
Not all transformations from manager to leader are so drastically needed, or apparent, as the story I just shared. Sometimes the journey from manager to leader or improving as a leader is more subtle. So, where are you on the journey to becoming a leader? What’s your story?
If you enjoyed this post you might appreciate this series, Leadership Values.