Sometimes our leadership lessons are the hardest to learn. On our path to becoming good leaders, we will need to embrace introspection, rigorously pursue knowledge and of course, take risks!
I don’t see any managerial skills in you!
These were the words said to me at just 29 years of age. It was one of the most devastating pronouncements I have ever heard. I immediately thought I am stuck! I will be a junior for the rest of my life! I would never get to lead a team !
But in retrospect, it was the greatest career gift ever! After crying my eyes out, I immediately set out to work. The next day I headed into a book store and bought all the books on leadership and management I could find, and I started to read them all!
Good leaders look within
The next step was introspection. I started to look at how other leaders in the organisation dressed, spoke and operated. I stopped wearing my uniforms when I had meetings or presentations and wore business suits instead. So that I could at least look the part! I started observing how leaders interacted with senior management and what I realized is that the good ones always came to the meetings with solutions. They took away most of the decision -making tasks from their seniors. So, I stepped up as well. Rather than go with a problem, I presented feasible options for solutions and allowed myself to be guided by constructive feedback.
Embrace knowledge -never stop learning
Another level of introspection, is that I looked at my qualifications, I still only had a Bachelor’s Degree, I felt I needed a Masters. Consequently, undertaking this course of study, exposed me to strategy and I started to see the business from a broader perspective.
Take a big risk!
And then I made the pivot. I decided to look for management opportunities. Was I ready? Truth is you are never fully ready! So, go for it! A year after that devastating pronouncement, I moved into a managerial job at a smaller firm. It was an experience I wouldn’t have traded for the world. It’s there my sales acumen was fostered, and my emotional intelligence skills started to develop.
So, when I reflect, she was right, I had no management skills. And guess what that’s ok, because at the end of the day my goal is to be a leader and not a manager- there’s a difference!
And we’ll talk about that more in another blog post!