The desire to lead came about four years ago. A responsibility of mine was mentoring an entry-level person on the same team. We were around the same age and got along great and our relationship deepened when they expressed interest in the next level. Side note: I rebuke the phrase “I don’t have time to train you.” It makes me cringe even writing it. It’s a flawed assumption with zero gain. Knowing this, I jumped at the chance to support someone else’s goals. Over the next few weeks we worked out what’s been working, what can be learned, and the steps for each. Soon we had an action plan that was quickly approved and implemented.
A few months later, they got the promotion. Impressed at the “stretch” work they have accomplished and the proven collaboration between us gained high marks in their interview. As I celebrated with them, there was a profound feeling of success and inspiration. What I found in myself was the intrinsic value of knowing our relationship and efforts together made an impact was better than anything tangible.
After that first step I’ve kept climbing – absorbing, listening, practicing. In that experience though I was not the leader. I was a product of leadership just willing to go along with it. They showed courage by asking for what they needed and from it amazing things occurred. I owe it to this person who showed me what leadership can be.
I believe leading isn’t directing, it’s guiding. It does not require understanding all the facts but understanding perspectives. Leaders ask questions like “What does support from me look like?” and “How can I help?” When you start the conversation and follow through on what you say, you build trust. People tend to follow those they trust. Leadership isn’t about us, it’s about who follows.