There’s something about paying it forward and not pulling the ladder up when you feel you’ve made it.
I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with a couple of organisations that are helping the next generation – Stemettes and The Bridging Project: both are empowering the next generation in practical and powerful ways.
Wherever you are in your leadership journey, you are never a finished article. There is always something to learn and discover, teach and remember. For leaders young and old, here are some key principles that never change.
I like to describe purpose as the reason you get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes people say to me that they feel their purpose isn’t ‘big’ enough, and that to be a great leader their purpose needs to be something world changing. The truth is, it’s whatever matters to you. Only you can decide what’s important to you. For some people it will align with the work they do; they may be addressing some of life’s big questions. For others, their work feeds their purpose – quite literally. Your purpose is your reason for being, why you do what you do. So, from finding solutions to universal problems, to making the life of others easier, to earning an income to sustain a lifestyle for you and your family, whatever it is, name and own it. It will be what drives you forward.
Values are your north star, the things that drive your purpose, your non-negotiables. When I talk to clients about their values, words like honesty, freedom, integrity and happiness come up quite frequently. What I help them to understand is that the same words can mean different things for different people, so once you define your values take some time to reflect on what they really mean for you in your life and your work. I once had a client who had a strong value around truth: for them it wasn’t just about ‘telling the truth’ but about being true to themselves at work, allowing people to be who they truly wanted to be. As a leader, this was the environment they strived to create so that their teams could feel safe showing up and walking in their truth. Through living by their own values, this leader created an open and creative environment in which their teams would thrive.
As a leader, your priority should not be yourself and your ego but your team members, customers and clients. When you put others at the forefront, your role as a leader is made easier. And remember, the people you’re leading are the leaders of tomorrow. There is the old adage that the best way to live life is to treat others as you wish to be treated. There is a lot of truth and value in this.
Most people that I work with want to make a difference. We all make a difference, in a variety of ways, even when it is difficult to articulate what impact you want to make. Some questions to ask yourself that may help you articulate the difference you want to make are: What problem do I want to solve? What do I want to be different as a result of my actions? What do I want to be remembered for? The difference you make will be your legacy. If this really matters to you, make it count.
Authenticity in leadership is long talked about and questioned: how authentic can you be? Can you bring your ‘true self’ to work? Remember we are human beings, complex and creative, with many layers. The ‘you’ that shows up with your family at the weekend is not necessarily the ‘you’ you want to bring to work. However, your commitment to honesty and fairness, for example, will show up both at home and at work. Tap into the parts of yourself that you know serve your leadership and make every effort to bring those parts and allow yourself to shine. You won’t always get everything right but put your best foot forward and your leadership will develop from there.
So here are some questions for you to reflect on as you think about your leadership and the example you are setting for the future leaders who are watching you.
How would you describe your purpose?
What values define you?
What seeds are you sowing to raise future leaders, improve work environments and create a better world?
What needs to change and how can you contribute to that change?