So, that person’s refusal to concede the election has me thinking about leadership. Mine, the leaders I’ve encountered in the past, and those I’ve been privileged to work with recently.
Self-reflection is really something. I think it’s a mark of maturity — especially when you can do it calmly, with an eye on improvement. Not, say, to release some emotional response that might feel good in the moment, but will render no other significant value for you.
For instance, I’ve never really had a ton of luck with leaders in my career. Not to say that they were all awful, that’s not true. Each taught me something — and not just what not to do. But there weren’t many that stood out as being truly exceptional, you know?
Again, that’s the wonderful thing about self-reflection. I can acknowledge that my interactions with leaders past may not have been as valuable as they could have been because of me. Still, had I encountered different leaders, I might have matured, evolved, and gotten better, faster.
Now, for the record, I’ve never been one to put responsibility for my behavior off onto other people. I believe too strongly in the value of accountability to give myself that kind of rather lame out. I credit the advances I’ve been able to make personally and professionally to the leaders in my life who’ve influenced me thus far. But, in fairness, I can also lay some of the barriers I’m still working to overcome with them too.
If you break it down to its root, helping high potentials — yes, I’m referring to myself as high potential, and what of it —to improve is part of a leaders job. It’s in the fine print of the job description.
You’ve heard the messages: Leaders build culture. Leaders mentor. Leaders coach. Leaders promote learning and development. There are hundreds of similar ideas floating about, and they all have merit because leaders really do run the world. Good or bad, they influence, persuade, impact, hurt, and help any number of people who venture into their orbit, whether directly or indirectly.
But there are differences between a real leader and someone who is just filling in that role. The biggest difference is a lack of ego. An understanding that nothing lasts forever in one state, and that our ability to impact something doesn’t have to end with a term — if we’re on the right track.
Leaders without problematic ego have no problem admitting mistakes or flaws. They don’t hesitate to ask for help, to treat people kindly, to care for others, to help out where they can for the good of the group.
President Obama left office smiling. Knowing that he’d done his very best, and knowing that even though he was no longer in that most high office, his impact was not over. His ability to impact the American people — the world — continues. His influence has not diminished. Why? He seems to perennially act from a desire to serve, to help, to not cause harm.
The team I lead now is very small, but I think I’m a better leader now than I was. I’m more humble. It’s nothing for me to acknowledge mistakes these days. Not to say that I like it, but I no longer think I have to appear perfect. I understand that true weakness is refusing to change, to accept that development should be forever, and that if I want to be a truly great leader, I must lead by example, and do my very best to do no harm to those who venture into my orbit.
I concede that my leadership journey is still ongoing, and I’m grateful for every milestone, stumble, and lesson along the way.