My son told me he had to write a short paper on a great leader. He told me he wanted to write about me but he wasn’t sure what kind of great leader I was.
I could relate. Up until recently I’m not sure I could tell you who I was a leader either. I spent a great deal of time trying to look and sound like other leaders I admire. While I’m trying to figure all that out, I can tell you what kind of leader I am not.
I’ve spent the better part of the last 2 years becoming something I could have never imagined on my own. It was all new territory for me. I felt like I had to be 15 minutes ahead of everybody else. I felt obsessed in proving my longevity and reliability. I latched on to every new idea I saw, devoured every article on leadership, tried to aligned myself with people I saw as great leaders. I tried with all my being to incorporate all those concepts, ideas, taglines, and catch phrases and create this exceptional leader persona.
But it wasn’t me.
I kept seeing this theme of leader burnout and how to avoid it and you have to pull away and make yourself less accessible. But I realized I’m no where near burnout and I love being with people and making myself accessible to people renews my energy, keeps me accountable. I’m not that kind of leader.
I read tweets, blogs, and facebook posts about how leaders motivate their teams, and good leaders pull their teams away for retreats, and strong leaders know when to push. I realized as much as I love being people I’m not in that stage of development yet. I still have a ton of relationship building to do to understand our teams, and how they communicate, what is truly their inspiration and motivation. They really, really don’t like to be pulled away from their environment and all my little creative outlets mean squat to them. I found I am not the kind of leader who can push a thread through a needle, but I am much better at pulling a thread when I know where to point them.
My natural tendency is to move forward and figure it out as we go. Planning is tedious. Minutiae is maddening. Deal with your hurt feelings on your own time. I tried to be the leader that just plowed ahead and if you were with me great, and if you weren’t, well, don’t get in the way. Even though that is my natural tendency it wasn’t effective. I tried catch phrases that worked for other people. The feedback was most people saw me as hyperactive pinball machine, I was exhausting to work with, and they didn’t know where I was going to land next or which direction I was going to go. If you keep being that kind of leader, pretty soon you find you’re aren’t leading anybody at all.
In becoming the leader I already am I am discovering the value of time overall.
1. Time for relationships to develop trust and transparency.
2. Time for planning and executing together as a team.
3. Time to make sure we’re all together before we move forward.
4. Time to center myself in my identity before God.
There’s a certain phrase you won’t hear me saying anymore because it’s not mine and it belongs to another leader, who is not me, and I need to stop trying to be like everybody else.
I still working on the kind of leader God intends me to be but I can pretty well tell you who I don’t want to be.
Have you been surprised to find yourself in a leadership role?
What have you discovered about yourself as a leader?