Leadership is typically associated with improving the lives of other people, but I want to share with you how my personal growth as a leader improved my own life as well.
But first I want to share with you some of my early leadership shortcomings.
What I Got RIGHT with Leadership
Leaders Go First
I’ve always been pretty good at going first and getting out there.
When I started my home improvement company, I started by canvassing, knocking on doors. Door knocking scares a lot of people, but it’s all I had. I had no money, but I had the Goodyear plan. The good tread on the bottom of my shoes. So I started walking and knocking. And guess what, it worked. I knocked on 300 doors my first day and ended up with four sales, four great clients, and many referrals.
I’ve always been good at putting on the blinders, keeping my head down, and getting things done. In my early days of running my business, it was common to work past midnight. I bet a lot of you reading this can relate.
Leaders Take Risk
It’s risky to start a business, but in my case where I came from, it was risky to not make a move. But I got comfortable with taking risks anyways. Taking on larger projects is a risk as well as adding new product lines. Everything you do in business is risky. I haven’t always won, but if you don’t risk, you never learn, you never grow, and you never succeed.
What I Got WRONG with Leadership
Getting Too Far Ahead
When I have a new idea, I get pretty excited about it. Hey, who doesn’t? The problem is I would Sprint down the road and leave my people too far behind where they couldn’t even see my tail lights. If you can’t bring your team with you or they can’t follow, you are not leading.
When you get to the point where you’re working on your company and not in your company, you can spend a lot of time growing and coming up with new plans and ideas of how to make the future better. Although it’s great to work on your company and not in your company, it’s not without consequences if you handle it incorrectly.
On any given team, some people will embrace change while others prefer to keep things the same. Regardless they all have their own whirlwind of day-to-day activities and responsibilities they have to get taken care of. The bottom line is change and advancement take time, effort, and even mental bandwidth.
That’s why it’s important as a leader to go a little slower than you really want so that your followers can keep up.
Tip: Slow down so others can keep up.
Not Taking Time to Help People Grow
This was a pattern in my life for most of my life. The first instance I can remember is when I was in the fourth grade. My friends and I loved to ride our BMX bikes. I was constantly upgrading mine part by part. I love that bike and kept every square inch of it clean and in order. One day my friend Paul discovered his back tire was flat just as we were about to go hit the trails. He grabbed his dad’s tools from the garage and out on the patio flipped his bike upside down and started taking the rear wheel off.
It was so painful to watch him struggle with the tools and the chain and the wheel. It seems like an eternity waiting for him to get it. So what did I do? I said “move aside, I’ve got this.” as I pushed him aside and grab the tools. I quickly remove the wheel, replaced the tube, reinstalled the wheel, tighten the chain and the bolts. And we were off!
Success! Right? Well yes, in the sense that we were finally off riding our bikes…what we intended to do. What I did not do was teach Paul how to properly perform the repair himself. It was because of my own impatience.
The same impatience carried over into my business leadership. Rather than taking time to actually teach people and ensure they got it, I would take over and do it myself. So the only people who could really succeed and grow on my team were the people who could do it themselves from the get-go or learn it very quickly. Those people are great to have, but good luck building an entire team of them fast enough when the leads are flooding in at springtime.
I eventually learned to slow down and help people actually grow, grasp the task, and “get it” so they could own it. I began to put things in writing or make a video walkthrough. In all honesty, I still struggle with this today. Maybe you can relate to my struggle, or maybe you’re someone who is good at slowing down and putting things in writing.
Tip: Slow down, write it down, so they can get it down.
Where Growing as a Leader Improved My Life
Leadership improved my life in a few ways:
- First, I got better at delegating work and taking on less responsibility. This freed up time to focus on my own goals and made me more productive.
- Second, I learned to trust my gut and listen to my instincts. This allowed me to make decisions quickly and with confidence.
- And finally, I learned how to communicate effectively with others. I learned to listen when I really wanted to talk. You learn so much more listening than when talking.
- By leading by example, I was able to build strong relationships with my team. These skills have helped me thrive in both personal and professional life.
- At home, with our five children, I transitioned from demanding boss dad to leading dad.
- When I helped the people on my team get better, it made my life better as well.
Leadership has benefits for everyone. No matter where you were at in your leadership growth journey, don’t stop growing, don’t stop learning, and don’t stop adding value to others.
Further reading: if you want to up your game as a leader, check out the blog I recently wrote entitled “4 Best Practices for Great Leaders” where I shared what I believe are the most important things you can do to be a great leader and to become a better leader than you are today.