Leadership as a journey is probably a tired metaphor. I’m as guilty as the next guy for wearing this out. I not only say it – I believe it! And as with any journey, there are stages or phases you and I consciously consider when planning a family vacation that we often overlook when we think about our leadership.
This is a topic I’ve not given much thought to recently. However, with some restructuring at the office, this responsibility falls squarely back to my team. Therefore, I’ve reengaged on this critical topic.
My thoughts are still in a very rough form, but since I’ve been encouraged to be transparent in the posts I write, I thought I’d share some “work in progress,” not polished ideas.
I think a leader’s journey has at least four phases:
Preparing for the trip = Emerging Leaders
Before you take a trip, most people I know pick a destination. Before the route is planned and hotels are booked, you decide where you want to go. Emerging leaders have a choice to make: do they want to lead? If so, they can begin the preparation in earnest. The best preparation involves both the heart and the hands.
Leaving the house = New Leaders
Who are the men and women in your organization who become leaders? For many the answer is, those from the emerging leader ranks who appear to be the most prepared or hold the most promise. These are the men and women you actually give a position of leadership. Once “in charge,” the real adventure begins.
Are we there yet? = Mid-Career Leaders
For many leaders in mid-career, there is often a sense of unfulfilled potential – a desire to do more and be more and contribute more. During this mid-career season, this desire either becomes productive or poison. Those who channel this desire for greater contribution and lead beyond their assignment are often rewarded with more responsibility. Those who whine and wait are done. The answer to, “Are we there yet?” is, you are always in a place to add more value – the best leaders seize it all along their career journey.
You’ve arrived! = Seasoned Leaders
This is probably not the best label for this stage in a leader’s career because the best leaders never arrive. However, they do reach a point where they realize their success is inextricably linked to those they lead. The successful seasoned leader has gotten self out of the way and is focused on helping others win. As a result, he or she wins too! They also know, their continued contribution is contingent on their growth.
So, what’s the point? I think there are several…
• Increased influence is a choice – independent of where you are on the journey.
• Expanded leadership opportunity is not contingent on your title or stage on the journey.
• The fuel for advancement and increased contribution is growth, not time.
• A focus on others will make the journey a lot more fun!
I know we’re all on the journey, my challenge and yours is to navigate the road ahead successfully and take as many people with us as possible!
What travel advice do you have for others on their leadership journey?
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