Believe it or not, leaders morph just like the rest of us. They evolve with every decision, opportunity or crisis. Many leadership books state that a leader must be an effective change agent. They must be at the forefront with the “main idea”, garnering support and rallying the troops. The first thing leaders must change, however, is themselves.
This is tough for a leader. We’ve been through the corporate fires, academic rigors, and earned our stripes! But as I look back at my career path, I can most definitely see where I have matured into a completely different leader throughout each job and decade in my life. In my twenties, I was an officer in the military. Our leadership was based on a cohesive hierarchy focused on a singular mission. Regulations were in black and white and people were there to serve. In my thirties, I moved towards private enterprise. People were not directed by power, but rather motivated via influence. In my forties, it continued to change, this time towards the challenge of leading as an entrepreneur.
Knowing that I have changed as a leader in the past encourages me that as life goes on I will continue to do so. I also have to change as those underneath me change. I have left several positions because I developed the team to make me obsolete. They did it in style and it was an inspiration to watch them spread their wings. There were many times throughout the change process, however, that there was a lot of anger, fear and frustration. I was the outsider making them do things differently. How dare I when everything was working just fine?
The struggle of leading, decision-making, and mentoring, is what helps us transform and emerge from our cocoon. In his book, 8 Attributes of Great Achievers
, author Cameron C. Taylor shares how he was struggling financially when he started his business. He went to a friend who declined to assist. The friend stated, “If I take away your struggle, I will also take away your victory.” He then relayed the story of the caterpillar that would never develop if someone would see him struggling and cut open the cocoon in an attempt to help.
So, as developing leaders, enjoy the struggles of change. Enjoy spreading your wings in each new opportunity, challenge or position. And most of all relish in the realization that this is an unlimited journey whose heights you’ve only just begun to glimpse.