Reflecting on my strengths and values, this post is a discussion of my intentions to leverage them in authentic and impactful leadership.
A great thinker of our time recently said, “The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency in the world.” Said effect on others is a function of truly powerful leadership, which I like to define as an individual’s authentic expression of their strengths and values to selfless ends. In this post, I discuss my journey of mastery in leadership, and how I’ve learned to best leverage my strengths and values to best leave the world better off because of my presence.
This journey has seen three key phases to date, respectively learning to lead myself, learning to lead others and finally, learning to be led.
Firstly, learning to lead myself. All forms of leadership begin with self-leadership. I remember clearly taking initiative from a very young age, especially in the way of technology and community projects. My intrinsic need to build a better future for our world has always been a clearly reflection of my intrinsic “Futuristic” and “Achiever” strengths, as well as my wildcard values as a facilitator, producer and broker.
An early example of this is from grade school, when I made a proposal for a sitemap and basic layout for the first-ever school website and was intentionally late for recess because I took it upon myself to pitch my idea to the principal, which was approved and so I built the first school website in Grade 5.
Later, I would find challenges that called for group dynamics and team leadership. While my earlier solo projects were community and people-focused, it was clear that leading others required a double-sided motivation. Leadership was no longer about getting the job done and feeling great about it, but rather getting the job done by motivating, inspiring and coaching very different groups of very different individuals, each with their own personal, professional and emotional situations. This phase called for dedication and tenacity, because it was the most complex and dynamic of challenges. In the end, after many groups, across organizations, programs, and initiatives, with much more failure than success, with reflection I gained a true grasp of my responsibility and analytical strengths.
My favourite example of this is from my tenure as the President of the Canadian Association of Business Students (CABS). Mandated by our Board to lead an executive team of eight people, spread out across the country, without honorariums or any form of tangible compensation, my job was to unite the team, integrate them in the overhead of the company, train them on governance and on our programs and prepare them to both oversee our 12 programs, 7 events and 250 volunteers, while growing our project base. Within the six months of reflection following the tenure, I made some of the most interesting and startling realizations, such as the importance of careful recruitment and selection to prepare teams for the best dynamic, as well as leading by example and framing positive culture by setting the tone early and maintaining consistency throughout.
Finally, I would find myself in a phase of learning how to follow. Taking a step back is an important role for leaders in circumstances that require it. This has been my greatest challenge today, because I must use discipline to allow things to take their natural course, while I support the process.
A first example of this was entering the job market in even above-entry-level jobs, where I found it incredibly difficult to go from “hero” to “zero” almost overnight. In fact, my tenure as a national student leader at the highest level of representation overlapped with my career employment. The difference in power, influence and ability to move things forward to following orders and strategies I did not understand or agree with, was like a day and night change. Leading up to the MBA, I encountered many circumstances where my strengths played both in my favour and less in my favour. Discipline would clearly need to be elaborated from self-discipline to learning to follow.
A second example is the return to academia at the Odette MBA. I was encouraged by my peers to take on a leadership role in our student government, known as the MBA Society. Having served in almost every capacity through my tenure with CABS and other similar student organizations, I was well positioned to achieve great things in MBA Society. However, as I recognize my need to work on that strength of discipline, I chose to decline the opportunity and to rather support everyone in a smaller, quieter and more passive way, which I am learning has greater impact. In this, I am learning to be led by peers, and coming to accept that they are leading me, without all the answers and that is okay, because that is a part of the greater process.
Leadership is clearly not a textbook skill, nor is it something entirely personal. Leadership is to rise-up by lifting others, by dedication to moving, touching and inspiring people to be engaged and share themselves with the world. Mastery of leadership is a slow and challenging process, with unlimited breakthroughs in our personal discovery of the human condition, through self-leadership, the leadership of others and as a leader in following.