In my first job, when I was fresh out of college, it took about six months for me to realize that I wanted to be a first-line manager so I could be the one telling people what to do. Having that title became my goal, my obsession. Unfortunately, my boss, at the time, had a different view of my readiness and possibly my potential. It had been less that year in my first job, don’t forget.
What my manager knew, and I would soon learn was that I had zero leadership or management knowledge or experience. I was embracing what is commonly known as the Destination Myth, which states, “When I get to the top, then I will learn to lead.”
Learn Before You Need
Legendary college basketball coach John Wooden said, “When the opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.” I would never try to run a marathon or go on stage to deliver a speech without serious consideration and preparation. Yet, when it came to leading a team of people, I simply wanted to be given the title. If you’re going to succeed in Leadership, you need to learn as much as you can about leadership before you can have a leadership position.
Because leadership is about influence, not position, you need to be learning leadership even if you have no desire to have a titled leadership position. The ability to develop your influence with others will affect your entire life, not just your work life. The Law of the Lid from the “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” tells us that leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower your ability to influence, the lower the lid on your effectiveness.
You could wait until you are promoted to a leadership position to start learning leadership, or you could start learning about leadership now and possibly increase your chances to be promoted to a leadership position. Another of the “21 Laws” tells us leadership does not develop in a day but day-by-day (The Law of Process). Now is the time to begin developing the mindset, skills, disciplines, and habits of the leader you one day hope to become.
To start or continue your leadership journey, I suggest establishing a daily habit of investing in your own leadership development. Start small, but do it daily. Your consistency is what will deliver remarkable results. Here are some ideas of what to do in your daily development time:
- Read leadership books. There is an endless supply of these to choose from, but here are two I found especially useful to get me started:
- Listen to leadership podcasts. There are many, but here are two to get you started.
- Watch leadership videos. When you load one of these, dozens more will appear in the sidebar.
- Listen to leadership audiobooks. Use your drive time or exercise time to listen to the books you can’t find the time to sit down and read. I have turned my car into Automobile University. The way traffic is these days, you can get a 4-year degree in about a year and a half if you use your time wisely.
As you can see, there is really no reason NOT to develop yourself to become the leader, influencer you desire to become. Start today. Start small. Be consistent. Watch the growth begin.
Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with the John Maxwell Company’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.