What I wish I knew about leadership


What I wish I knew about leadership development twenty years ago is that:

The moment you realize that life and leadership are all made up is the day you will start to change your reality.

This means that you, and only you, are the author of your reality. Despite this truth, you were taught differently your whole life.

When you’ve created something good in your life, it’s easy to say, “I did that!” You might even be feeling a great deal of pride about what you’ve created or perhaps for what your team accomplished.

What about when things aren’t going so well? This one can be a hard pill to swallow. The truth is, you’ve created those things as well.

You might be doubting your ability to lead. You may believe you’ll be a leader once you get the next promotion.

Whatever your story – you have what it takes to construct your reality differently.

However, the world of leadership development can leave you feeling differently. Most programs fall short on a critical component for changing your leadership.

Sonia (not her actual name) was a mid-level manager at a large financial institution.

Sonia told me that more than anything, she wanted to help the people on her team succeed.

Sonia wanted her team to feel they are successful in what they’re doing, their ability to learn and grow, as well as in their personal lives.

Sonia called me up one day. She was frustrated and ready to quit her job as she didn’t feel she could make a difference.

And, it wasn’t from a lack of trying.

Sonia had been doing plenty to improve her leadership. Soaking up all of the leadership theory she could find, asking for feedback, and even looking after herself better.

She didn’t think any of these things were getting her very far, though. And, she was exhausted from trying.

Sonia’s story is hardly unique.

The problem wasn’t Sonia, though.

The problem has to do with the world of leadership development.

The world of leadership development is full of ways for you to grow your leadership.

  • Workshops and certification programs
  • Books, blogs, scholarly articles, and publications
  • Free webinars and community meetups
  • The school of hard knocks (i.e. experience)

It’s not that any of these modalities are bad. It’s just that they’re often designed to give you knowledge, and don’t help with the job of integrating the knowledge.

Take, for example, how the corporate world is putting a lot of focus on certifications.

In the Agile and Lean world, which I am a part of, you can now earn more than 250 certifications.

I’m sure plenty of the certification programs are great.

However, most programs focus on the cognitive and behavioural needs of learning. When you spend time with a teacher or facilitator, you meet the needs of these two dimensions.

Think of behavioural needs like building strength in a muscle. The cognitive part of learning is committing new information to memory.

Instructors use lectures, exercises, repetition, visuals, and testing to help you develop those muscles.

Where most programs don’t provide support is in how you construct your new reality.

This isn’t a failure of the workshop.

It’s just that it’s challenging, if not impossible, to construct a new reality in a three-day workshop.

When the program ends, most people are on their own to construct a new reality, including what they’ve learned.

Let’s say, for example, you’ve attended a leadership workshop.

And, let’s be fair and assume the content of the workshop was outstanding.

The workshop all made sense to you, and you leave feeling that what you learned will help advance your leadership.

The next day you return to your day job. You start thinking about how to apply this new knowledge.

Some parts of the learning might be easy to integrate. However, other parts have you wondering if it can work in the real world.

Before long, you start losing sight of the learning from the workshop.

And, you know what they say, “Use it or lose it.”

The gap that has you struggling to integrate your new knowledge is in how you are constructing your new reality.

Whether you know it or not, you will weave things you learn into your consciousness to construct a new reality.

You might find yourself including the learning. When this happens, you will likely change the way you lead.

It’s also true, though; you might include the learning by excluding it. I know that sounds like a paradox, but hear me out.

Let’s assume something in you says it can’t work, won’t work, or is just a bad idea. You’re going to file this new information under “don’t do this.”

You might even water down the new knowledge to the point that it’s no longer helpful.

For example, I’m a pleaser. A pleaser is what you might call a saboteur or a way in which you self-sabotage yourself.

When a pleaser starts to integrate new knowledge, they are often concerned about not upsetting people. So, they won’t rock the boat too much.

Being a pleaser might have me taking a passive approach to integrating the learning.

It’s hard to change my leadership when I’m rejecting or watering down new knowledge.

While I used certification programs as an example, I want to be clear that I’m not discouraging you from taking them.

The same is also true for all of the other learning modalities in the leadership development world.

All learning modalities serve a purpose and contribute to your collective wisdom and knowledge.

However, it’s not enough. You need to construct your new reality consciously to get the outcomes you want.

This is the missing ingredient that I’ve been referring to.

Your leadership will not change until you construct a new reality based on what you’re learning.

Constructing your new reality takes an investment.

So, what does it take to construct your new reality?

As my mentor, Bill, says, “It’s you. Only you. No exceptions.”

That’s right. Constructing a new reality is an internal process. And regardless of the outcomes, it’s something you’ll build based on how you see reality (even if the new story is limiting and full of BS)

Constructing reality is rooted in three principles:

Principle 1 – Leadership and life are at their best when you honour what’s important to you

Principle 2 – How you see life is how you will experience life

Principle 3 – Leadership and life are best when you embrace your emotional self

The behavioural and cognitive domains are essential to learning. But, it’s how you construct your new reality that will change your leadership and life.

The question to ask yourself is:

What would be possible if you believed you had unlimited time, talent, and resources?

Would you push through the stories holding you back and be the leader others want to follow? Would you change jobs to do something that has you jumping out of bed every day? Would you write a book, give a TEDx talk, or start a new business?

There’s no limit to what becomes possible when you get out of your way and own the fact that you do have unlimited time, talent, and resources.

Whether you’re feeling stuck, unsure of where to go from here, or simply want to up your game:

I want to share more of how to start believing you do have those things so you will construct the reality you want.

Subscribe below with your best email address if you’re ready to tap into your unlimited time, talent, and resources.

Then over the coming days I’ll share what’s needed to rewrite your reality and how to get started.

Don’t worry – if you’re not finding it valuable you can unsubscribe anytime with the link at the bottom of any email.

I know you have it in you.

Building Great Teams

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Building Great Teams

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