Your Leadership Is Your Life Story (Part Two of Two)
Last month I wrote about listing 50 of your life experiences, no matter how “insignificant” or grand they may have been, and appreciating that they helped shape who you are as a person and, ultimately, as a leader. Reflecting on what life gives—and takes away—provides you with a deep understanding of yourself, and with that comes a greater awareness of those you lead. If you do not know who you are and why, how can you possibly learn to understand, develop, and inspire others?
After reflecting on my own list, it was time to answer the question “What do I want?” I have found (often the hard way) that if I cannot answer that question, whether personally or professionally, I need to step back and focus. Something has me derailed. Derailment can cause a void in your leadership because you likely have lost sight of who you are, or you are trying to be someone you simply are not. This happens to all of us at times. Getting back on track often takes uncomfortable work—on yourself.
I started thinking about what I want to do or experience over the next year. This is not a “bucket list,” but, rather, a list of things I really want to and could accomplish or keep doing over the next 12 months. Thus, I began a list of “50 Things I Want to Do This Year.” As with my life experience list, I have tried to stay open and free in thought. In looking over my list, which I have yet to complete, I was surprised by the number of “small” things. It was not about taking special trips, although I wrote those, or completing certain physical feats. The items I really noticed were things, like, “Tell my friends I love them,” “Get outside in bad weather,” “Laugh at myself every day,” and “Call my sister.”
Leadership is a totality of character, trust, influence, humility, and courage. Without self-awareness (reflection), appreciation (of your own life), and forgiveness (include yourself in that), you eventually will succumb to mediocrity in your leadership because you will not truly see yourself. I do not naively suggest that any of this is easy or will automatically make you a better person or leader. But, the results may surprise you.
Special Agent Suzanna Hasnay, an instructor in the Center for Police Leadership and Ethics at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, prepared this Leadership Spotlight.