In our society that rewards constant action, it is often hard to step back and reflect about where you have been, what you have learned, and where you should be going. However, leadership requires as much thinking and reflection as action. Many people I know are busy doing the wrong things; they work hard, but not smart. Every day is just one more attempt to push the boulder up the hill and hope that at some point positive sustained momentum will push them over the top. Unfortunately, as the slope of their climb increases, the weight of their responsibilities also increases and the path they are treading becomes less predictable and unstable. You cannot push forward into uncharted territory and not expect to learn some tough lessons along the way. If you are not careful, you may slip or fall, and the boulder will roll right back over you.
We have all heard the saying many times that “what got you here, won’t get you where you are going.” I agree to an extent, but also believe that self-reflection is healthy and that some patterns are worth reproducing. There are situations where each of us thrive and struggle. Your first responsibility as a leader is to set yourself up for success. Don’t try to morph into what the current popular leadership textbooks tell you to be, instead be the best YOU that you can be. To accomplish this, you need to fully understand your own strengths and limitations; you need to be honest about where you add value and where you create unnecessary difficulty. Sometimes we get in over our heads. The last thing we want to do when this happens is flail about embracing change for the sake of change. Slow down and be deliberative in your decisions and actions.
The leadership journey requires you to reflect constantly on the role you and others should be playing. As you achieve some level of success, your business may challenge your capabilities to lead it. This is okay if you do something positive about it. You will need to challenge your own preconceptions about what’s possible and why. Chances are you will outgrow some of your people, which is sometimes sad, but should be expected.
You will need to recruit new talent with new skills to manage the additional complexity. You will need to delegate more and tolerate less. You will need to say “no” to things you are accustomed to saying “yes” to. You will need to remove the organizational dependence upon you and create a business model that fosters functional interdependence and process driven self-correction. All of this requires both personal and professional growth.
You will need to THINK and act differently. There are no shortcuts to success, but there is also no reason to make it harder than it needs to be either. Reflect more and react less.