What I’d Tell My Younger Self about Leadership
What would you say to your younger self about Leadership? Becoming a confident and courageous leader is both an attitude and a process. Like many undertakings, developing the ability to lead is one that benefits from experience. In fact, when it comes to gaining the insight that we need to learn how to lead ourselves and others, there really isn’t a substitute for experience.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all go back in time and share our experiences with our younger selves (minus the pimples and glasses!)? The lessons that I’ve learned from my personal journey are priceless in value! If I could go back in time I would share the following five leadership development strategies with my younger self plus a few amazing tips.
Want to Be a Leader – Start Early
It is never too early to start working on your leadership skills. Regardless of your age, or current position in your career, take steps right now to learn more about the skills and qualities that all effective leaders share. Look for and read books on leadership, and look for coaches and mentors that can help you get started and guide you.
Life itself will present enough challenges and obstacles to your dreams. So, it’s important that you seek out literal cheerleaders to inspire you to keep giving your best effort even in difficult times.
Pursuing a path of excellence and authenticity is hard enough without being drained by negative attitudes. Early on, learn to multiply your energy by surrounding yourself with individuals who believe in you and support your efforts.
Embrace Opportunities to Lead
As you focus on developing your leadership skills, look for opportunities to lead. Whether it’s at home, in the office, or within your community, look for areas that need improvement and where your actions can make a difference.
Leadership is not defined by our job titles. Actively seek out more challenging roles in your workplace and be a leader by pursuing excellence and improvement.
What Direction Should You Take – Play to Your Strengths
Being a great leader really comes down to knowing who you are at your inner core and consistently being your most authentic, honest self. Learn your natural talents, preferences, abilities and limitations and make choices that play to your strengths.
It’s impossible to be exceptional at everything. Don’t waste precious time and energy trying to master everything, but narrow your focus and work on developing your strengths.
Define Your Mission by Focusing on Your Vision – Know Your Purpose
It may seem like a strange question to ask yourself, but do you know why you want to lead? What is it that you want out of life? What are your values, what do you stand for? Learning the answers to these questions is part of developing your vision.
Without vision, you can neither plan nor lead, because without vision, it’s impossible to define your mission. Great leaders have the ability to motivate others and bring out the best because they know and have defined their mission in four key areas: passion, purpose, philosophy, and presence.
Being an effective leader is about knowing your “why” and owning it! Take the time to focus on yourself and learn what energises you and brings you joy and don’t hold back from sharing your authentic self with others.
From this passion, find your purpose for leading. Discover what it is that you want and then plan out the steps that you need to take to achieve your purpose.
Avoid shortcuts that seemingly offer success at the expense of your personal philosophy. Be mindful of your plans and actions and take steps to ensure that they are consistent with your values.
Allow your passion, purpose and philosophy to shape how you present yourself to others. Be confident in your abilities and allow your presence to honestly reflect your vision.
Embrace Risk and be Courageous!
It’s tempting to play things safe in your career, but you will never achieve anything exceptional or great without taking a few risks. New ideas, innovation and creativity are fuel for our vision and all require risk.
Don’t be afraid of change, don’t be afraid of failure! Embrace risk and be courageous! Shake things up, discard the status quo, do something different.
Our best lessons come from our mistakes and failures. So, when you fall, move on. Pick yourself up and keep going forward!
I would also tell her –
• Be kinder to herself
• Have the best leadership attitude every day. You choose your attitude.
• Learn and open yourself to who you truly are. This self-discovery journey never ends.
• Pick up a leadership book and start reading it. I would personally read this one cover to cover, but I also mention several others throughout this book.
• Be authentic. The best leaders are those who know that self-awareness is the greatest capability.
• Integrity is central to leadership. Lead by example.
• Focus on getting to know yourself – self-awareness is the key.
• The best leaders own their story. It does not define you, but your story makes you who you are.
• Take more risks. Say yes to opportunities! Just jump. Act now.
• Own what makes you different. Own it. You rock!
• Trust your natural ability – you can do it.
• Believe in yourself – confidence rocks. Trust yourself. Put your hand up!
• Don’t take no for an answer. If they say no, go to the next. Find that yes.
• Surround yourself with empowering people who lift you higher. Your tribe. Your cheerleaders. Get rid of people who put holes in your rowboat.
• Give more to others. Mentor and coach others. If you are successful, don’t forget to send the elevator down for others to ride up in.
• Empower others to lead. Leadership is about others.
• Be compassionate and curious. Be kind to yourself ﬁrst and then to others.
• Network! Meet as many people as you can. Add value to them.
• Never stop learning. Invest in yourself. Only you matter.
• Enjoy your amazing ride. It is incredible. Take in your leadership journey.
What would you say to your younger self?
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About Sonia McDonald
Sonia McDonald is the CEO and founder of LeadershipHQ and McDonald Inc. Sonia is a leading keynote speaker, leadership advisor, author and facilitator.
She believes we should lead with kindness and courage, from the heart, doing rather than telling and is known for her mantra ‘just lead’. She leads by example in all these areas and through her one on one practical coaching, leadership training for teams and organisations encourages others to do the same. Sonia has helped hundreds of people on their leadership journey to become the best version of themselves and in turn, inspire and bring out the best in others. Also she and her team have worked and partnered with a number of businesses and companies for over a decade build great leadership, teams and cultures.For more than 25 years, Sonia has been on the front lines of Human Resources, Leadership and People and Culture. She has held leadership positions worldwide and through experience, research and study come to realise what it takes to be a truly great leader.
Sonia has an ability to speak bravely and authentically about her own development as a leader, personal and career challenges in a way which resonates with her audience. She has become an in-demand keynote speaker where she starts important conversations and inspires people around the world to lead with kindness and courage.
She is an award-winning published author of Leadership Attitude and Just Rock It! and writes regularly for publications such as The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. Sonia has become recognised for her work in the leadership space across the globe where she leads the Outstanding Leadership Awards as well as her work in her leading podcast and leadership channel where she celebrates and showcases great leaders and leadership.
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