Why you need to continuously invest in yourself if you want to lead others.
There are many great books and courses on leadership, self-development, managing small teams, but they all revolve around one key point of evolution: You.
For any progress you expect your organisation or division to make, it begins with you. You have to be willing to change. You have to be willing to evolve. You have to be willing to improve. You have to be willing to reconsider what you thought to be true in light of the changing context you live in, and you have to be willing to learn from those around you.
This isn’t easy. Stagnation is tempting, change is hard.
The reason why it isn’t easy is because, if you are reading this, you are likely a self-starter. To usually start something, a company or product, means you have to put things into motion. YOU have to take actions, YOU have to create processes, systems, products, conversations, and relationships. After many months or years of driving things, this motivation to be the main source of all creation within your organisation/division can become a habit even after that habit is no longer absolutely necessary.
Once your organisation/division starts to grow, if you’ve hired well and created a culture that allows it, your colleagues will be equally capable (if not more) in driving creativity and leadership from within your organisation. This team-driven creativity can include everything from what to do, to how to do it. Your job evolves into creating room to let this flourish. In other words, your creativity evolves into the enablement of creation.
In order to do this effectively though, you need to continue to invest in yourself, it doesn’t just happen on its own. I define ‘investing in yourself’ as a combination of learning from others but equally importantly, taking time to reflect on your actions/reactions on a daily basis. You need to invest in yourself so that you can learn how to balance between when to get involved and when not to. You need to continuously learn on how to catch trends that can become toxic within a division or organisation and know how to manage them so they resolve themselves positively. You need to invest in learning how to communicate more effectively to those within your organisation (above and below you) but also to those outside your organisation; not only to attract more talent, but also to effectively deal with ambiguous circumstances that inevitably arise in any organisation.
Additionally, building a company and hiring people to help you with scaling it requires you to take ownership and stewardship over not only the outcome of the company, but also over the people that make it possible. You can’t do that if you have your head so far up your ass you can’t be challenged by those around you or can’t be approached out of fear of not being listened to, or worse, scolded or ridiculed. We all have feelings, this doesn’t mean you should feel nothing when someone reaches out to you with feedback, but rather your tendency should not be around how you are right, but rather more towards: ‘what can I learn’ from this to help us all improve and be better off?
As I write this, I’m very conscious of where I am on my own personal journey on this topic. I’ve made many mistakes along the way, and likely will make many more. However, I remind myself that yesterday’s failures aren’t an excuse for inaction today, rather they give me a richer context from which to learn.
To share a personal example, for the longest time, we kept many of our organisation-wide decisions centred around the most senior team members, perhaps due to the fear of change or fear of what the output might be. This however, created workflow bottlenecks and stifled ideas from colleagues (rather than creating an idea-discussing context). It was basically a mode of operating that didn’t give freedom to different heads of departments to really think about how to build their respective products for their respective teams and customers. After some tough chats with colleagues where we identified the root cause of the issue, a new org structure was put in place that granted much more freedom to division heads (but with the requisite accountability) to identify key issues, assess their severity, prioritise by impact, and create new products and execute initiatives. This conversion took some getting used to, and some people letting go of some things, but in the end, the outcome has so far been much better than the previous status quo.
As you embark on your own development, if you’d like some resources to start with, here are a few I’ve found helpful in my journey so far:
• The Great CEO Within — A very practical guide to all aspects of company building. A must read.
• The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership — A great book that helps you reflect on ‘habits’ you might or might not be engaging in within your organisation or division, and how by changing them you might be able to change your culture and outcomes.
• Extreme Ownership — A good reminder that you can’t have change if no one takes ownership of what’s happened.
• Commit Action — Not a book, but rather an accountability program that operates on a weekly cadence after you’ve reflected on the goals you have for yourself.