The Things I Wish I Knew… Before I Became A Leader - Proteus Leadership
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The Things I Wish I Knew… Before I Became A Leader

You do have choices.

One of the common mistakes made by organisations and individuals is they often think that to be successful, the only path is in to a management or leadership role. The fact is that you have choices. If it is not what you want to do, then don’t. Too many good operators have been destroyed because they took on a leadership role thinking that it was the only choice they had. There is another choice and that is to say no.

It is not about pleasing others, it is about doing what you enjoy doing. If however, it is the path you choose, then get ready for an exciting, rewarding and bumpy road.

The buck stops with you

The jump from being a part of the decision-making process to being the final decision maker is a jump that most new leaders are not prepared for.

Be warned, you will have to make final decisions and no matter who has been a part of the process the buck will stop with you. If it is the right decision then there will be plenty of support, however, if you make a wrong or unpopular decision then it will be a very lonely experience. Go with your gut. Make the decision because you think it truly is the right thing to do. If you are wrong then at least you stayed true to yourself and gave it a go. Staff hate nothing more than to be led by indecisive leaders.

You will not have the same relationship with others

No matter how hard you try, the relationships that you had with others will change, especially if they report directly to you. It is important to advise those people that you do now wear two hats and that there will be times when decisions and actions will have to be made for the good of the organisation.

It is a part of doing your job. If they cannot see and respect this, then you have to question the relationship.

The leadership/management role is on top of what you do!

I thought that when I took on the leadership role that I would then just be able to sit back and supervise. They never told me that in most cases it would be on top of what I already did. The extent to which this is true for you depends on how you delegate and manage the people you are responsible for. It is great to be ‘hands-on’ but you must make the time to step back and manage, otherwise you will burn out and staff will never learn to take on new activities.

It is a privilege to be in leadership

Above all of the challenges you may experience you must never forget that it is an absolute privilege to be in a leadership role. To have the ability to have input into the decision-making processes of an organisation and to be able to have input into the lives of the people you are responsible for is a
privilege. If you don’t feel this way then you need to either step back for a while and review your own situation, or get out of the position altogether.

Leadership is about developing yourself to keep ahead of the pack

Frustrated leaders are those people who constantly react to what is happening around them. If you want to be successful in a leadership role then you need to continually look for ways to develop yourself, both personally and professionally. Look ahead. See what is happening around you and prepare yourself. People admire leaders who are growing with the job.

It’s OK to ask for help

Surely this is a sign of weakness! To think this and not to ask for help is not only a sign of weakness but a sign of pride that will eventually bring you down and alienate you from other people. It is not only OK to ask for help, it is absolutely essential if you are to develop in your leadership role.

You don’t have to control everything

Surely this can’t be true! This can sometimes be one of the hardest lessons to learn. There is a huge difference between being in control and being controlling. The latter usually comes from not allowing others to shine, or from not understanding the benefits of delegation and teamwork. If people are better than you at doing something, then let them do it, but be sure that you give them the authority to make it happen. Step back and let go of the control. It is amazing how it will reduce your stress levels.

Not everyone will be like you or do things the same way

Much of your frustration comes not from people not doing their job, but rather not doing it the same way you do. You often hear people say that everyone is different and that they achieve things in different ways. This is very true, however, sometimes you don’t have the time to allow this to happen. Again, take a step back and ask yourself these questions, ‘Am I being unreasonable? Is my impatience and lack of willingness to allow them time to learn, the problem?’ or, ‘Am I just blinkered and set in my ways?’

The differences make the difference.

It’s OK to make mistakes

If you are not making mistakes then you are not trying anything new. Part of growing as a human being is about how you respond to and learn from the mistakes you make. You will make mistakes and so has everyone else who has succeeded in a leadership role.

Give yourself a break. One of the best strategies for moving past your mistakes is to know what you did wrong, identify what you have learned from the situation and to set new goals.

You need to take time out

Sometimes I still struggle with this one because I actually love my job and don’t find it a chore in any way. This would be OK if it was just about me, but taking time out is about the other people in my life as well. They need me and want to experience me outside of what I do in the job. So plan for time out. Establish goals and rewards that you can get excited about. This will help you be more satisfied in your leadership role.

Don’t take things personally

This is easier said than done. Usually when people criticise you it is not about what you have done, but more about how that action affects them. As much as you don’t set out to upset people, if you are true to yourself and you are seeking growth in your leadership experience then one of the first things that will happen is that you will upset certain people. The tall poppy syndrome is still alive and well and to overcome this you need to have a good self-esteem check. Start with your motives. If you have done your best with the right intentions then that is all you can do. Be true to yourself.

It helps to have a coach and a mentor

Everyone needs someone to talk to, apart from the voices in their head. No one has all of the answers or can cope with everything life throws at them. Find a mentor, someone you respect and organise scheduled times to meet to discuss both personal and professional issues. Also find a coach, someone who has been there and done it and have them look at what you are doing in your business and give you some sound ideas and strategies that will help you move forward.

Get good people around you – Don’t recruit people like yourself

One of the greatest lessons you can learn in leadership is to employ people who are better than yourself. If you are threatened by good performers then you will never be a good performer yourself because you will always be looking behind you. Find and hire the best.

Financial expectations are stressful

Whether it be in business or in a personal relationship, one of the greatest stresses that you can have is financial pressure. Remember, if you don’t make a buck then you don’t survive. Get off your high horse and realise that when people push the economic line, there is usually a good reason for it. I will admit that some people push it too far, often at the expense of people, however as leaders you need to be mindful of how important it is for your own organisation to be financially sound. Don’t be scared of money and don’t be scared of talking to your staff about it. They would rather be involved so that they can become a part of the solution.

Don’t live in the past

One of the things that is constant is that change will continue to happen whether you are a part of it or not. Take what you have done in the past and develop it, or if necessary throw it in the bin. Don’t be one of those leaders who continually lives on the achievements and experiences of the past. Be known not for what you have done but for what you do. It will change the way you approach new initiatives and the way you foster creativity in your team.

If your motives are right, then even your mistakes will become exciting and if leadership is the path you have chosen, then go do it and absolutely love it and have great fun along the way.

Remember leadership is a privilege!

Des Penny is the CEO and Founder of Proteus Enterprises Pty Ltd.

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Proteus Leadership is one of Australia’s premier leadership training and development companies. Proteus Leadership provides leadership courses and management training to a range of industries and assists organisations to build positive workplace cultures, implement change and Create Great Leaders. Proteus also facilitates a range of world-class management courses, workshops, conferences and events across Australia and beyond with the sole purpose of bringing leaders together to connect and grow.

“Our core purpose is to Create Great Leaders that will in turn build Great companies and develop Great teams.”


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