I’ve been thinking about leadership for most of my life. From the early days of my life, I’ve been watching those around me make decisions for themselves and the family. Not to mention being a witness to the successes and failures of teachers and students through grade school into college.
I wouldn’t have called it leadership in my youth, but looking back, I recognize the signs: someone has authority over another person or group, leading them to a goal (stated or undeclared), for the benefit of a reward in the future.
I saw a lot of mistakes and readily judged everyone including the person who made the mistake and the people who “blindly” followed the leader. I told myself, “I would never have made THAT decision! What an idiot!” In my judgment, I became the worst type of leader: the never-wrong-know-it-all.
The way I learned about leadership was as a passive observer. I thought I learned what not to do, but really what I discovered was the fear of making mistakes and a desire to make everyone happy.
Over the past few years, I have been going through the transformative process of becoming a leader. It starts with a daily and painful pruning of what I learned being a passive observer of leadership. I cry out as the shears ship away my price and arrogance. Judgment becomes a question rather than an answer; an inquisition of self.
As I take shape through my daily pruning, I realize an important truth: Leaders have to make tough decisions that impact lives either through direct result or the ripple effects of their actions. The best leaders accept the consequences knowing that they are trying to do the best they can for as many people as possible.
What I know now that I didn’t know then, is that’s impossible to be a perfect leader. There will always be someone who is affected negatively by a leader’s decision. Criticism is readily available from the passive observers on the bench of life. But how the leader responds to the consequences and criticism says everything about their character.
Leadership begins the second we take ownership of our decisions and accept the consequences of our actions. Becoming better leaders is only possible when we admit we don’t know everything and will never be perfect, but do the best we can for as many people possible.