I’ve decided to write about some things that I thought I knew, but really I didn’t. I began recently with What I didn’t know about Parenting and now I’m moving onto another important part of my life.
Leadership is critical for many people, and it’s an area that I’m always developing personally and learning more about. Whether you manage a large company, your own business or volunteer in areas that you are passionate about – chances are you are leading in some way.
We are all leaders.
As I transition personally from a defined leader role in an organization, to one that now involves self-leadership – more than ever I’m thinking about leadership and what that means. I thought I knew a lot, but there’s definitely more to learn.
As I’ve been reflecting I came up with some things I didn’t know about leadership, that I kinda know now. Hopefully, these thoughts will help you look at the journey you’re on.
- I didn’t know leadership wasn’t all about me. Leadership is not all about the leader. For many years I focussed on myself and was perhaps a little tempted to make things about me. I’m the leader! What I know now is that leadership is actually less about the leader, and more about the people being led. I’ll always care about my leadership style, and how I lead because it’s important to me. However, I noticed a shift when I cared less about myself and more about the people around me and helping them succeed. Great leaders are more about the people they lead than themselves.
- I didn’t know time management was possible. Looking around and seeing leaders working excessively long hours, not taking days off and burning the candle at both ends made it seem like time management was just a fancy word that leaders used but never followed. What I know now is that time can be managed. As a hard-wired procrastinator that always left things until the last minute, in my most recent leadership season I finally learned how to manage my months, weeks and days. I also took a super-helpful course by Carey Nieuwhof called the High Impact Leader. I haven’t become perfect, but following self-made schedules and timelines transformed my habits. This reduced stress and increased productivity and is something I will carry into this next season. (Mainly so that I’m not sitting around in my PJ’s all day waiting for life to happen. I mean, I’m writing this in my PJ’s but I planned it that way.)
- I didn’t know that self-care was critical. For many years, particularly in my context, leadership would lead to feelings of burnout, exhaustion and emotional stress. Working in an organization that is primarily about people and support, this is a common outcome. What I know now is that self-care is critical for leadership. Taking time for yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually is the best way to self lead. Sometimes a long nap and a visit to a therapist are just what you need. Other days, maybe it’s a long walk in the early morning. Maybe a trip to a magical cafe inside a greenhouse! (my personal fav) Taking care of yourself first is ok, and equips you to lead others well.
- I didn’t know looking for joy could change culture. I’m pretty good at finding joy in most places, but over the years I’ve observed many in leadership roles that seemed miserable. We know that leadership can bring difficult seasons. What I know now is that looking for joy as a leader is important. Leadership is not always easy, there are going to be hard times that you don’t understand that try to take you down. Finding joy as a leader can help you get a perspective that provides balance. Plan joy moments and experiences that bring fun and laughter. Create a culture that makes people happy. Smile more and look for joy each day. Joy doesn’t erase challenging times but it’s a valuable companion for the journey.
- I didn’t know how important yes and no could be. As a young leader I was determined to say “yes” to everything. I didn’t want to miss out on any opportunity that came my way. What I know now that is every opportunity isn’t always the right one. In this stage of leadership I’ve chosen carefully thought-out, prayed-over words that define this season of my life, and those words help me make my decisions. This has made my “yes” more meaningful and exciting because I know it’s something I’m passionate about. It also makes me feel less guilty about my “no’s” and the freedom to recognize that everything is not my thing, and that’s ok. Decide the words that define you as a leader and make them your guideposts.
There’s never an end to our leadership journey. There’s always more to learn, strategies we haven’t explored and concepts that we thought we knew but actually have no idea.
All we can do is keep moving forward as leaders.
These are my reminders to myself, more than anything.
It’s not all about me.
Manage time well.
Look for joy.
Yes or no.
Always trying to lead well.