The Discovering Leadership Series is my response to the question of how I recognize leadership in others. Heading into part 3 of the series, we’re looking at a commitment to self-improvement when leading others.
When somebody walks through the doors at EPM, no matter their job description, they are authentically themselves and hit the ground looking for solutions. They recognize the importance of the existing culture. It’s a pretty quick tell that they will be a fit for the organization.
Culture is our ecosystem in leadership. Things that go exceptionally well in sports, politics, or business are strong leaders who prioritize the culture and lead up, pushing others forward.
Self Improvement is the Difference between a Good Leader and a Great Leader
The leadership that works today didn’t work 20 years ago. Today, we expect things from our leaders like vulnerability, transparency, and connection. As a leader, you have to evolve, and you have to Own your Unique and share it. If you’re not growing, you’re dying, so you have to keep working on yourself every day.
Experience builds leadership. Along with education, that’s the pathway to getting better. Time and knowledge bring evolution. That means putting yourself through the trials and finding solutions, but also taking 6-10 hours a week training reading and listening to understand and educate yourself on your industry, on your strengths, and even on your weaknesses.
On a personal note, negativity is something I naturally avoid. My nature is to stay positive, but that’s not enough to be a better leader. It’s on me to acknowledge when there is negativity and lean into and explore it to learn. It’s going to be uncomfortable sometimes. But growth comes from discomfort. It comes from looking at things in new ways and recognizing if there’s something in there that you’ve been missing.
Focus on Being a Lifelong Learner over being The Boss
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever.” Lifelong learning and collaborating are some of our most powerful leadership tools.
Understand you are not the best or smartest person in the room. If you think you are, then you’re walking in already creating a challenge for yourself. You have an opportunity to learn from others every day. Iron sharpens iron, and a strong leader will still look to advisors and mentors. You will also find people you are leading better than you at a skill or have a beneficial characteristic that doesn’t come naturally for you.
Set others up to do what they do their best. Steve Jobs said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire people and tell them what to do. You hire people so they can tell us what to do. Lee Iacocca said, “I hire people brighter than me and then get out of the way.”
The Benefits of Self Improvement
Getting out of the way frees you up to build better skills and better relationships through being a lifelong learner. Educating yourself on your passions and polishing your own gifts have so many considerable benefits.
People who focus on learning show improved motivations and adaptability to change. They have an open mind, are increasingly curious, and are hungry for learning, opportunity, and growth. Knowledge increases your ability to innovate and recognize opportunities while also understanding other perspectives and preventing bias.
Knowledge plus passion equals attention. With attention, you can focus on consistency to your mission, values, and vision. Putting everything through that filter and having personal integrity and honor naturally builds self-improvement. It also builds trust with those you are leading from a foundational place. Modeling this kind of leadership will build morale, empower others and strengthen your organization every day.