By Sherry Surratt
Over the short and long haul of leadership I’ve discovered Three Splendid Truths of Leadership. Ready? Here you go!
1. You have to take responsibility for your own leadership growth. No one else is going to do it for you.
The beauty of this truth is it reveals the true owner of your leadership: you. You control your trajectory. While your boss or company might control your job title and salary, you have complete say over how much you'll develop as a leader. Through your choices of what you read, who your mentors are and what skills you choose to work on, you determine your leadership potential. Here's how this works in my life: I pick another great leader to watch and learn from. I choose one thing at a time to focus on, such as their style of communication and I study it. I take notes. I ask them questions like: why did you say it that way? how did you know how to respond in that situation? I write down the learnings in a journal and I try to apply them in my leadership life.
2. You will never reach the leadership place where you've “arrived.” Get comfortable being a lifetime learner.
Leaders make things better. But in order to have impact you have to get better yourself. Read, listen, learn. Be open to criticism and sort through it for wisdom and priceless lessons. Bank on the fact that new growth results in new opportunities. Here's how I've worked to become a lifetime learner: I LOVE to read so I pick leadership authors and then read everything they write. John Maxwell, Patrick Lencioni and Nancy Ortberg are some of my favorites. I take notes and make lists of the principles that jump out at me. I try to talk these over with a mentor and form a plan of how I can implement these principles in my life.
3. As leaders, we all struggle with something. A smart leader is willing to see her weaknesses and do something about them.
This is something I'm still learning. I recently talked with a mentor friend about being disappointed that I was still struggling with areas in my leadership. She looked me right in the eye and said, “Because you think you are not human? Sherry, if you are a leader who's breathing, you are going to struggle with something. Stop whining and do something about it!” Ouch. But she was right. We'll never reach perfection as a leader. We will always have an area to grow in. A wise leader recognizes what the area is and then does whatever she can to get better. Here's how I try to apply this truth to my leadership: Just like most people I hate criticism, but I've learned not to just blow it off. Within every criticism is usually a nugget of truth and something I can learn to do better the next time. Criticism, if you take the time to process it, can help you slow down and take a hard look at yourself. I wish I could say I never get my feelings hurt or get defensive, but of course I do. But I also try to convince myself the criticizer is trying to help me get better (even if they aren't!)
I wish I had learned these splendid truths earlier in my leadership, but there's no time like the present. Let me encourage you. Wherever you are in your leadership, whatever level you are leading at, seize the opportunity to grow. Don't let your weaknesses breed insecurity and fear in your heart. Step into your leadership role with confidence knowing that God indeed calls women to lead and he will equip you for whatever leadership mountain you might face. Just ask.