Leadership is often discussed in this utopian fantasy, whereby someone learns that they too can be a leader and people see the value, buy the vision, and follow with appreciation and everyone is elevated. In this fantasy, the leader does all the things they learned; they’re productive and they appreciate their people and yet, instead of clear roads ahead, their leadership journey is riddled with speed bumps.
The following are three common speed bumps and simple solutions to help get over the bumps.
People around you don’t buy into the same vision.
You can see how you and the people around you can achieve your mission and be collaborative. Yet, some people don’t want to collaborate. What can you do about it? Stay the course, stay true to your vision, and stay grateful. For those individuals who don’t share the same vision and collaborative spirit, I think there is an opportunity to continue to share the benefits of the vision and to be grateful that as the leader, you understand the benefits and can share those, as it strengthens you and your work. People come and go, so at the end of the day, it comes down to a few of basic questions.
Will changing course help you achieve your vision?
Is it the right thing to do? Can you live with it?
People who you were leading, get the promotion.
Because you’re busy leading/managing people and giving people opportunities to succeed, that’s what they’ve done—and you’ve been successful in helping them. It doesn’t feel great sometimes when the people you were leading get the new job or the promotion, but as a leader, you should think of your ability to influence, not just the promotion. People remember people who succeed and will share how they got to where they’re at, which includes you. It might take time, but people will appreciate and recognize those contributions.
People are looking to you for answers and you don’t have them.
When people recognize you as a leader (informal or formal) and they need answers, you want to have them but it’s not always possible. You don’t want to let your people down. So what happens when you don’t have the answers? Don’t fake it; no one has all of the answers. You’re not letting people down (yourself included), by wanting to obtain reliable information so that people can make well-informed decisions. Perhaps this is an opportunity to brainstorm or perhaps there’s a resource that you can ask who does have the answers. Does someone in the group you’re leading or in your network have information that would help? That can be an opportunity for them to be more visible and to showcase their knowledge. There’s an opportunity to lead in not knowing and you’ll be better regarded for facilitating the information than faking it.
Though it’s not always an easy journey, the message that I want to leave you with is this: stay the course and trust in your abilities as a leader. No one is perfect but if you’re willing to grow, you will be successful. Don’t abandon the destination for a few speed bumps or potholes along the way.
I recently recorded a podcast where my co-host said that if it weren’t for the tool we were discussing, all of these amazing things would not have happened. I politely disagreed. The tool is just that, it’s a piece of software and it’s up to us to decide what we do with it. In my example, I shared that there are thousands of people that just use this tool at work and then go home and don’t think about it again. The tool didn’t give them an amazing life. Instead, it was the individuals who decided to learn more, get engaged, and contribute. They led themselves and were open to the opportunities that came to them. What struck me about this conversation, is that we were really talking about self-leadership.
What is self-leadership?
I tend to think of leadership has two major components; productivity and people. If we apply this to self-leadership, then self-leadership can be defined as having, believing, and working towards a vision, developing one’s skills and abilities, and appreciating the work and effort done.
We can apply this concept to the tool my friend talked about. My friend saw the potential benefits of using this tool and got excited about it. He believed that he could help others with the information that would come by using this tool. He read, watched tutorials, and practiced using the tool. He created useful products with this tool and felt good about what he accomplished.
While self-leadership is more internal, there are external components to help lead one’s self. People decided to share their knowledge through blogposts and videos, which my friend was able to use to develop his skills. The other aspect, which is so critical, is that my friend found a community; people who similarly wanted to learn and grow and were excited about the potential benefits of this tool. They also supported and cheered him on when he produced something amazing. When some aspect of doing this work gets hard, he has the support of the community to help. The great thing about self-leadership is that it doesn’t mean you’re alone. Whether it’s a user group, a Facebook group, an Instagram group, a slack channel, GitHub; there are people out there who can help either with your personal development or with appreciating the work you’ve done.
Not only did the conversation with my friend make me think of self-leadership, but it made me think back to high school and some advice I received at Girls State. Don’t be a piece of furniture.
If you sit there, nothing will happen except that you’ll stay in the same place unless others move you and people will use you. That piece of advice has stuck with me for almost twenty-five years since I first heard it. That piece of advice is really about self-leadership and prompts for action. Whether it’s using a tool or becoming more fit, take action.
Live engaged and lead yourself, others will follow.