The Learning Leader
The other day, I had the opportunity to briefly chat with a colleague whom I had managed for several years, and who themself was now in a leadership position. The general conversation was about how they had identified some key sources of leadership guidance early on and continually referred to it whenever a particular problem or issue was raised. The concept was that as leaders, we continually grow, through our experiences, but also through our active search for new information, new concepts, and more answers to the dynamic we face each day.
As we discussed this process, I was reminded of the way in which a leader grows and by extension, grows those around them. As a new leader, whether self or organizationally appointed, but especially appointed, you are sometimes thrust into the middle of change and turbulence.Your very appointment is the type of change that the entire organization may be struggling with on some level, but your team might particularly be affected. You may be supervising friends, or competitors for the job, or both (a double whammy that is an even higher degree of difficulty).
Your early leadership efforts are primarily focused on learning and understanding your new peer group, redefining your relationships with your team and reports, and understanding what responsibilities come with the position. At the moment, you may have little time, energy, or even content to pass on to your team. Don’t be discouraged – this is expected.
In time, as these relationships become more and more clear, your skills become sharper and your experience toolbox becomes larger and more capably equipped with the sorts of things you didn’t have at the beginning. You will find, especially as change and turnover occurs, and as you prove your worth to the team and the organization, you will be become more and more a resource to your team, as they continue their learning journeys. There are bound to be the anchors who want to recall their happier days but your job is to focus this team on growing and moving forward. The first person to join your team as a fresh face with no recollection of you as anything other than as a leader is a milestone event that you will cherish.
The final phase of this evolution is when you are confident in who and what you are, your team functions well under your direction, and you can begin to focus on leading your entire organization and becoming that bridge between the strategic and the execution level of your business. As this process goes on, take every opportunity to teach your team the things you are learning and prepare them, especially those who want to learn, to advance in their own way.
Leaders are teachers, and their measure is the number of leaders they create.