It has been two years since ‘Stepping Up In Leadership’ was released into the world. Two years doesn’t seem like much time in some ways. Then I stop and consider the change in my leadership role, leaving my employment for my own business and a global pandemic hitting. Two years can contain a huge amount of growth, pain, learning and stretching. Earlier this year the audiobook version was released. Reading through each word carefully as I recorded it had me thinking about what would be different if I was to write the book today. What would I change?
What hasn’t changed
I’ll start with one thing that definitely has not changed. My definition of leadership and what I view to be effective leadership. The words of that chapter still ring true for me. They still capture the ideals that I am working towards. It would be easy to let that get me down in some ways. The longer I am in leadership, the more I see the ways that I fall short of these ideals. That leaves me with a choice- do I let that spur me on or do I quit leading? While quitting does have its appeal in some hard moments, I know that it isn’t about being perfect but about making progress.
This is where self-leadership comes in. I was really only starting my journey understanding what self-leadership meant when I wrote the book. Now I run coaching programs on it! I have so many more tools at hand to keep growing. Tools like changing my perspective, understanding what is driving my behaviour and changing my language. And yet, I still forget to use them on a frequent basis! Maintaining routines, habits and leading myself well in different areas is so much more challenging than I wanted to think. But again, it isn’t about perfection but trying again and taking the next step forward.
What I’ve learned about leadership
I understood and believed many leadership principles intellectually. Now I understand and believe them through experience, particularly through my mistakes. None of what I wrote was wrong per se. However, I can see the more shallow level of lived experience shining through. Now I have stories to go along with those principles. Not necessarily stories I would share in public spaces but lived experiences I can remind myself to learn from!
One of the biggest realisations has been around communication. I underestimated how much communication and relationship building would be involved in developing a team and sharing a common vision. Again, I knew these things intellectually. Working out how to do this in real life is a whole other level of growth. Add in working remotely and a pandemic shutting down travel! I continue to figure out how to build connections with my team and communicate effectively when we are all spread out.
What I’ve learned about myself
The real changes have been in me not what I believe about leadership. There are three chapters in the book that make me smile when I read over them now. They cover ‘conflict resolution’, ‘discovering vision’ and ‘giving up on long term planning’. I remember the version of me that wrote those words. She was nervous and doubted her ability to operate in these areas. The words I wrote were as much to convince myself as my reader.
Some days I still need that convincing. I see my faults and weaknesses in even greater ways.
I think leadership has a way of holding up a mirror in that way. Add navigating an organisation through a global pandemic and the cracks are bound to be revealed. We must choose what to do about it. Some choose to deny and cover up. Some choose to give up and stay in a place of self-judgement. Both choices are evident in my life at times. I want to respond in a way that acknowledges the mistakes I make and the ways I fail while still having self-compassion and taking steps forward. I am still working on leading myself well in this space.
As well as my weaknesses, I also see my strengths more clearly. I never thought of myself as a visionary. And yet now a large part of my role in both my volunteer role and leadership coaching involves vision. I have improved in my ability to have hard conversations and sit in the tension of conflict resolution. Opportunities reveal giftings. Then we get to develop them.
I continue to grow as a person and as a leader. It is a privilege to be able to walk alongside other women and young people seeking to do the same. I love sharing what I am learning and hold out encouragement to whoever needs to hear it.
Get a copy
If you haven’t read ‘Stepping Up In Leadership’ yet, grab a copy. Paperback available on my website shop or any online bookshop like Koorong or Book Depository. Audiobook exclusively available on my website shop. Ebook available on Kindle, iBooks or other ebook stores.