Leadership Experience Provides These Six Essential Keys to Personal and Professional Growth
Do you aspire to be a leader but fear you’re not cut out for it? Do you wonder if the effort involved in leading a team is really worth it?
During my early career, I always aspired to be a leader but often thought I didn’t have what it takes to lead others. I saw some benefits of having a leadership position, like more influence and higher salary; however, I also saw leadership as a somewhat thankless role that required a lot of time and effort. As I continued to participate on teams and take on more responsibility, I became more curious about what leadership could offer in terms of greater impact, possibility, and professional growth.
When I finally had the courage to apply for and accept a leadership position in a large company, I found that leading a team was deeply rewarding both personally and professionally. The responsibilities of leadership, like giving clear direction and motivating others, challenged me. The new capabilities I built through leading a team were exactly what I needed to overcome personal obstacles and progress in my career.
Here are six essential capabilities I gained from leadership experience.
1. Greater Awareness of My Unique Set of Skills and Strengths
As a team member, I was given certain responsibilities, loosely based on my skills and strengths. I was aware of my skills and strengths because I had to advocate for myself in interviews. However, leadership experience gave me a whole new understanding of the value of my skills and strengths, and how they fit into the bigger picture of the team and organization.
When I became a leader, in order to leverage the power of the team and achieve our objectives, I had to delegate. To delegate effectively, I had to become an observer of people’s strengths and skills. I had to see clearly and reflect on how to best leverage each individual’s capabilities given our workflow and time constraints — not just my team’s strengths and skills, but cross-functionally too, in order to leverage our partnerships. For example, I found that one of my analysts was great at task execution and follow through, while another had amazing attention to detail and could catch subtle crucial errors. This made me evaluate my own skills and strengths as well. I realized that I am strongest at problem solving, communicating, and strategizing.
I developed deeper awareness of my most valuable skills and inherent strengths. I learned what kind of people and situations could really benefit from my unique set of skills and strengths.
A leader is in a position to really understand each skillset relative to others on the team, and how these skillsets work together. With this understanding, I became a more confident delegator. I developed deeper awareness of my most valuable skills and inherent strengths. I learned what kind of people and situations could really benefit from my unique set of skills and strengths. I learned what qualities and capabilities complemented mine in order to achieve our objectives.
2. Newfound Confidence in My Decision-Making
At work and in my personal life, I used to hesitate when faced with a decision because I didn’t have the capability of quickly evaluating a situation and choosing a way forward with confidence. As a team member, I would make small decisions but they mostly affected my own work scope and schedule. Leadership takes decision-making practice to the next level out of necessity.
Leaders are constantly faced with decisions — it’s part of the job. As a leader, I was prompted to make decisions on my feet, often in front of many people. At first it was scary and then it became easier. I made decisions about how to delegate. I made strategic decisions about the team vision and priorities. I made decisions about how to manage my time. I advised my team members that looked to me for guidance. I learned to put time aside in order to reflect on tough decisions and develop my decision-making skills.
With practice, decision-making became easier and more efficient. I gained trust and confidence in my ability to make decisions when I saw that my decisions manifested in progress and growth.
With practice, decision-making became easier and more efficient. It became more intuitive and I trusted myself more. I gained trust and confidence in my ability to make decisions when I saw that my decisions manifested in progress and growth. Leading allowed me to overcome my resistance to trusting my own decision-making skills in order to move forward with more strength and confidence.
3. Inner and Outer Voices of Validation
Early in my career, I looked to superiors for validation and praise. Validation and praise from the top-level leadership made me feel valuable and productive. It motivated me to continue to work hard. However, even positive feedback from my leader or from the top-level leadership didn’t really satisfy me after a certain point. It made me feel safe for a brief moment but it didn’t make me feel truly abundant or inspired. I realized that I needed validation from my leader sometimes, but sometimes his or her validation didn’t quite resonate as confirmation that my efforts were truly impactful or meaningful. At a certain point, I felt I had become the expert.
I soon found that the validation I really needed came from two places that I hadn’t been looking before: my team and myself. After a lot of hard work and dedication, the people I was leading forward started to positiviely acknowledge my efforts. At one-on-one meetings, when they agreed with my direction and confirmed that they felt positive progress, this kept me motivated. I found that by journaling daily I paid more attention to the state of my happiness as validation that I made the right choices. I validated my team’s decisions and progress by comparing our actual achievements to our intentions and objectives we set. This practice allowed me to take ownership and it fueled my intrinsic motivation.
I validated my team’s decisions and progress by comparing our actual achievements to our intentions and objectives we set.
I learned that you have to do the deep work of validating your own actions as a leader. You must have your own mechanism for feedback and validation to stay motivated. This often comes from consulting with your team and with yourself, as well as superiors.
4. An Appreciation for Self-Compassion
While working as a team member, I was always hard on myself. I was my greatest critic and didn’t provide a lot of space for positivity. If my leader gave tough feedback or pointed out a mistake, I’d agonize over it for weeks. I would show up to work early and leave late. I would work often to the point of burnout. I would work through challenging, dark times without much positive self-talk or reflection. Progress felt exhausting, lonely, and forced.
As a leader, I expected a lot from my team members in terms of productivity and quality, but I realized that harsh feedback and long hours don’t necessarily fuel progress. What really helped my team members work efficiently, stay engaged, and improve was constructive feedback paired with positive acknowledgement. I learned to always lead with a motivating, positive acknowledgement before providing constructive feedback. Positivity is key for sustainable progress. I realized I needed to treat myself with this more compassionate approach as well. I started to incorporate positive self-talk into my morning writing by including my weekly wins and gratitude list.
Positivity is key for sustainable progress. I realized I needed to treat myself with this more compassionate approach as well.
I learned to be compassionate toward myself. I learned to be my own best friend and supporter rather than a harsh critic in order to fuel confidence and progress. This helped me to grow from constructive feedback and mistakes by viewing them as a positive opportunity, rather than falling into unproductive negativity or abandoning a new opportunity too early.
5. The Ability to Articulate Information Clearly
As a solo team member, I was good at taking direction and executing efficiently. I was good at presenting information in meetings and discussing my work with my leader. As a leader, when I started having weekly team meetings to review our objectives and weekly plan, I received a lot of questions such as, “Why are we doing that?”, “Who requested that?”, and “How will we do that by next week?”. My team didn’t take orders well without explanation. They wanted to know the reason for my strategy — the why and the how.
I realized that I had never been so explicit with myself about my work plans. I was challenged to think through things more thoroughly and articulate the why and how more clearly. As I prepared more for team meetings and refined my communication skills, I received fewer questions. I learned to articulate information carefully and proactively. This approach helped me to clean and clarify the team strategy. I learned to articulate information to people with different perspectives.
As I prepared more for team meetings and refined my communication skills, I received fewer questions. I learned to articulate information carefully and proactively articulate important details.
The call to be more thoughtful and clear about my plans and actions helped me to become more intentional and thoughtful in my own work and life as well. Leadership prompts you to be more strategic and visionary about how you will manifest your goals and plans. Leadership prompts you to communicate clearly in order to fuel individual and collective progress.
6. Connection with My Self-Care Practices
Before leading a team, I didn’t know what self-care practices fueled my best work. I didn’t prioritize self-care. I would eat what was most convenient. I would respond to burnout with a night in watching TV and drinking. I would go to a yoga or wellness class sometimes but not on a regular basis. I didn’t have regular, supporting self-care routines. When I became a leader, I realized that in order to show up and support others, I had to find resources and practices that supported my health, focus, and energy.
Leading a team involves more meetings and collaborative efforts than working on your own. With the responsibility of leading a team, I couldn’t be so reactive to burnout when people were counting on me to show up and provide direction. I had to proactively manage my health and energy. I took time to find the support systems and routines I needed to show up at my best. I started to go to yoga class on a regular weekly basis, I cooked healthier food at home, and I slept at least 8 hours on weeknights. Instead of continuing to check e-mails at home or work overtime, I dedicated time to rest and reflection. I spent time outside of work in ways that filled my energy cup so that I could return to work feeling energetic and inspired.
I had to proactively manage my health and energy. I took time to find the support systems and routines I needed to show up at my best.
Prioritizing self-care is essential in order to lead a team successfully. Leadership requires understanding of your own self-care practices that support your health, focus, and energy. This essential capability brings new potential to your work and life.
Lead Yourself and Others toward New Potential
To recap, leading helps to cultivate greater awareness of your unique set of skills and strengths, confidence in your decision-making, deeper sources of validation, self-compassion, the ability to communicate clearly, and connection with your self-care practices. All of these capabilities helped me to progress in my career with more ease, authenticity, and enjoyment. Leading profoundly transformed my relationship with myself and with others.
Leading profoundly transformed my relationship with myself and with others.
What is the call to action here? Consider taking a leadership position. Whether leading a project or a team, inside or outside of work, it’s beneficial for both personal and professional growth. The call to give direction, navigate team dynamics, and work collaboratively provides positive challenge. The capabilities you gain are invaluable for your progress. You also lead by example and help others to grow and develop as well.
Taking a leadership position involves taking a leap into the unknown. You have to jump into the pool first in order to learn to swim. Each day will be different and present different challenges. This call to respond to the present moment is part of what is so powerful about leadership and makes it such a human role to fill. You have to be present. You have to see clearly.
Taking a leadership position involves taking a leap into the unknown. You have to jump into the pool first in order to learn to swim.
Though leading a team may at first seem like a daunting challenge, it’s a rewarding experience and a journey of Self-study. It takes dedication but it’s worth it! It’s a path to deep transformation, interconnectedness, and personal growth. Leading a team eventually gave me the confidence and skills to craft my business vision, start a business on my own, and take care of myself along the way in order to discover and share my purpose with others.
Your turn! Check out this free workbook download from Awake Leadership Solutions, with prompts for reflecting on your relationship with each of these essential capabilities. Work through the prompts to identify how leadership could help your reach new potential personally and professionally.
Thanks for reading!
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To learn more about Awake Leadership Solutions and Hilary Jane Grosskopf, visit www.awakeleadershipsolutions.com