A Leader is a dealer in Hope
There are hundreds if not thousands of quotes that appear to englobe everything there is to know about Leadership. There is also a lot of bibliography for those trying hard to become a Leader, looking for inspiration or instruction or both. And of course there’s Gurus and Specialists out there that will tell you what it takes to become be a Leader, or what true Leaders do.
While I’ve found most of what I’ve read on the topic interesting, I have to admit that only a small part of it worked for me. The one thing that helped me a lot though was having the right mentor, a person who would listen and provide feedback, even if that meant being blunt or harsh. I can’t say having a mentor is a universal formula for being a great Leader though.
These are just 5 things, five facts I’ve encountered throughout my ongoing journey to Leadership. I didn’t discover these of course yet I picked them for a reason: they are true, real and palpable and if you’re taking the Journey yourself, you might find them useful.
Leadership is what you make of it.
It is you after all who is leading. It is you who takes the input, the feedback from those you need to lead or that which needs to be accomplished, translate it and give it back in such a way that everyone understands that directions, context and means must if come from and through you. Your leadership style depends not just on you but also, on how you got there and for what, and of course the context and those you lead but ultimately, it depends on how you connect all the dots.
An oxymoron, yet a very true one. Most people think that a Leader is basically a person with an inherent capacity to tell others what to do, fix things or work out situations. Well that doesn’t describe me at all, yet I do all of that. I also listen a lot, try to accommodate most points of view and give myself entirely to those that open up enough for me to share. You have to listen in order to speak, watch in order to point and take directions before you can give them. I discovered that for someone to lead, they must first follow.
To lead is to fail before you can ever succeed.
More often than not, I have failed. I can’t say I’m proud of that, yet I’ve discovered that success is more like a rainbow: it comes in different colors all together. Succeeding is usually understood as arriving to a certain destination but that journey is never a straight line. I’ve learnt much more from the turns and the pit stops in the road that from any advice I ever got at the job. It is the fall in the pool of mud and the whole “pick yourself up and keep going” moment that teaches you, only that when you’re leading it looks worse. It is actually the best moment for any leader: it means you’re learning.
Leaders come and go.
One of the mistakes I made, once upon a time, was thinking I was irreplaceable. I was a Sr. Manager who had hit his targets in 3 quarters, had the lowest attrition rate of my Area and I had a chair at the “Leaders Table” of the Company. I was also becoming unnecessary and I didn’t know it. My business model, the skills of my team and our results was rapidly becoming irrelevant to the Company as things were shifting at a bigger level and I was absolutely unaware of it. I only came to understands this after they fired me for the second time.
Leaders are bigger targets.
It doesn’t matter how charismatic you are, how good at what you do (or how good you think of yourself for that matter). All it matters is that given the opportunity, the best move is always the same: aim for the Leader. If you bring that person down, everything is easier afterwards. Think of people who want your job, or who want to blame something on you. Think on that person who makes terrible decisions on your team and is unaware of it, or think about your boss who’s wondering if you’re becoming dangerous to his or her position. If you become a Leader, sooner rather than later someone will take a shot.
There’s no quote that describes what you feel better than the one you make sometimes. After all, it is yourself (your context, experience and history) who determine your luck, your results and how your Journey ends.
Also published on Medium.