Leadership is the art of becoming your better self
One of the hidden opportunities for leadership is that leadership is practice for your life outside work. Work is important, and we may spend most of our waking lives at work, but it’s not the most important thing in our lives. Work is practice for what really matters. It’s a place where we can become more aware of ourselves, and become the person we want to become. Then we can take that person home to our family.
The nice thing is that this self-improvement at work is also the path to great leadership. What is it in your home life and at work that shows up consistently as a growth area? What gets in the way of who you really are when you are at your best? Practice being your best self with the people you work with. That’s what they are paying you to do. It’s part of the job. Keep focused on who you want to become.
Leadership isn’t just a title, it is a role, and it is a big role. There are parts of that role we do well and there are parts of that role that – if we are honest – we must admit we don’t do as well. This is also true in our lives outside of work. We may not be the best listener, planner, communicator, delegator, conflict-resolver, boundary-setter, feedback-receiver, or patient listener. Whatever is taking away the joy of work is taking away the joy outside of work. The good news is that as we embrace the role of leader and begin to work on the whole role, we can start to become the person we were meant to be, our better self.
No matter who you are, there is room for you. Each of us is unique. Never before has the global work environment been more open to diverse approaches and styles of leadership. It wasn’t that long ago that most of our leaders came out of the military and had a strong, directive style of leadership. That worked, and it worked really well. Today we see a different reality where the workplace has room for a myriad of styles and approaches. This means there is room for you and your style.
This does not mean we are absolved from self-improvement. We can’t just expect people to simply accept us as we are. Years ago, I was coaching a leader in the banking business. We were going over his feedback and said, “Well, this is just who I am.” Not quite sure knowing how to respond, I simply said, “Well since this feedback is from your boss and the board, who you are is about to be fired.” That got his attention. What got his attention even more was that this feedback was similar to the feedback his wife and grown children had also been giving him. With that, a different tone emerged, a softness started to ease into the conversation, and he said, “Maybe we should work on helping me learn how to develop a new me.”
One day you won’t be in the office anymore. That is a simple fact of life. However, you just might have the opportunity to glance in the mirror and see a person you like.