December always seems to be a paradoxical time of year where time feels like it stands still and flies past at the same time. I seemed to have blinked and all of a sudden the kids were singing Christmas carols and making their wish lists for Santa. As panic started to set in at the thought of braving the shops, I stopped and took the time to write and reflect instead. (sigh of relief!)
2018 has been an amazing year for me. The people I’ve met, stories I’ve heard, and challenges we encountered politically, environmentally, and emotionally all contributed to a full on human experience. It has made me think about what shining beacons of light there are in the world of leadership.
So, without too much fanfare, here are my top 3 leadership reflections for 2018:
1. #Leadership does not have to be a solo experience – many of the leaders I worked with this past year admitted to how lonely being a leader felt at times. To them, it meant needing to have all the answers, being on top of everything going on, and being able to bend and flex to their team members’ needs. That’s what good leadership is, right? WRONG! Leadership can be a shared experience. The first thing I tell new leaders is to find a few trusted advisors to surround themselves with. It is the support of these trusted advisors that can help you clarify your thoughts, provide perspective, and help you create and implement solutions. Trusted advisors can be your own team members or leaders, peers, mentors, family or friends, or a professional coach. It doesn’t matter, as long as you can speak freely with your trusted advisors, which is the most essential way to avoid the loneliness trap. Having supporters in your corner builds your confidence and will enable you to thrive as a leader in the long term.
2. Leadership is not a “thing” nor is it an achievement. It is a human experience – Some people I encounter seem to chase leadership as if it is a status or thing to be obtained or achieved. If you come from this mindset, you may not realise that once you have it, you still have to tend to it. *sound of penny dropping* Tending to your leadership is one of the greatest human experiences that one can be privileged to have (personally, I’d say on par with being a parent and raising a tiny human). It gives purpose, meaning, and joy to the way we develop and grow in our lives. It starts with you simply asking yourself, “what kind of leader do I want to be?” Already have an answer? Then go forth and create that experience.
3. Leadership is accessible to all – if leadership is a human experience, it can truly be accessible to all. Anyone can be a leader. Sometimes people tell me they wish they could do what I do, and then I tell them “of course you can, but you’re also not me. So figure out what you want to do, and go do that instead.” So perhaps as we wind down 2018, you can start to ask yourself, what is the one smell step I can take to be the leader I want to be?
Sometimes reflections are hard earned, and 2018 was all about me leaning into my own leadership journey while also supporting others in theirs. I started Humans Who Lead at the end of 2017. It has been a slow and steady journey, and along the way, I got better at asking for help. I got better at surrounding myself with people who lifted me up and whom I didn’t feel judged by, the ones that I could say anything to without feeling stupid, the ones who could still give me compassion when I couldn’t filter my words so politely. I created my own panel of trusted advisors, whether these people knew they were on my panel or not. They helped my leadership thrive.
As an OD practitioner, I told myself that the type of leader I wanted to be was the one who supported from the sidelines. Not pushing others from behind, rather walking side by side in someone else’s growth journey. I also wanted to be a convener, to bring others together to learn in community rather than be dictated or lectured to. I learned to let go of control and invite other voices, and wow did we learn together. Sometimes this approach resonated, other times it didn’t. I let that be ok and stayed true to myself.
Then I asked myself what I could do to support more from the sidelines and convene others? In 2018, I taught my first master’s course in coaching to build our future leaders, I mentored junior team members, and I coached some impressive people. I helped to convene a #LiberatingStructures community in AU and hosted my first Sydney OD and Change Knowledge Sharing MeetUp with 78 members and counting, with many more MeetUps to come in 2019. These were some first big steps in my leadership experience, with many more to come.
So, what will 2019 bring for you and your leadership? Let us find out together. Wishing you all, dear readers, the most joyful festive season and a happy, healthy new year. See you in 2019! And remember, you are capable of far more than you think.
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