I believe in reflective thinking, and I often go back to one of the first conversations I had with a strong leader who took me under his wing. He was ahead of me light years – and at the time, I thought he was “off” in his statements. We disagreed, we challenged each other and pushed each other to the brink of coming close to tipping from debate to arguing. As the years passed, I realized he was right in more ways than I could ever imagine that day. We were simply in different places in our journey during that first conversation. I wrote things down that he told me, they’re in a book and I still go back and read it…and his words become more accurate as I mature and grow. I’ve thanked him many times over the years – and I’ll be forever grateful for the things he buried into my leadership core.
He approached me during my early years and suggested I throw my hat in the ring for a supervisory position. He told me, “Your already a leader, you might as well get good at it!” I was surrounded by a ton of people that thought leadership had a title…I knew better than that and my mentor started explaining and teaching me how to be mentally strong while taking on the responsibilities of being in a leadership position. There are many leaders who understand the duties however, many don’t understand the package that comes with it. I wasn’t completely aware of all the outside things that come with leadership and I’m grateful I had the words of wisdom from a strong leader to lay it out so I wasn’t taken off guard.
As a leader, you have to be willing to be so many things including being disliked, targeted, blamed, selfless, courageous, transparent, loving, direct and everything in between. My mentor told me that some of the most challenging situations would be when I knew something that I couldn’t release because it was for the good of someone else, the company or myself. He was right. He said to me, “There will be a day when you have to sit in front of someone who is accusing you of doing or not doing something, blaming you on their failure or angry at a decision that you made. They will attack your character. They will come at you strong, they will spread stories, rumors and slander you, they will try to get others to side with them and they will treat you poorly…and as a STRONG LEADER, you will have to take it. You will need to dig deep, focus and drive on. The difficult part, will be that you may have information that if you released it, would clear your name – information that would give them an understanding of why you did what you did….or information that maybe the other person is not completely revealing all the story and the worst thing you can do, is to betray the confidentiality that was entrusted to you or get into a situation where you’re throwing mud back. Learn to take the attacks with your head held high. Don’t resort to throwing back information to benefit you…maybe you know something about them, let it go. How you respond to a situation speaks volumes about your character. You will never save everyone – some people will always be a victim. Learn that some will never bring their self esteem up and some will never let their ego down….they base all their decisions on themselves, they don’t understand selfless service and you must let it go.” It was a powerful conversation.
Years later, my mentor and I were having another conversation and he explained to me that leaders are often put in difficult situations, they have people trying to get them to take sides and they need to tread lightly and stay far from that – they should be careful not to be manipulated, they have to take chances when making a decision and not rely on excuses of why things went wrong or didn’t get done. They have to see things that others never see – go into things with a degree of skepticism yet still be open to see things from a different view. Leaders will be called every name under the sun, their competition will slander them, and they will often take the heat when things go wrong and rarely do they get the credit when things go right. They will do 20 things good for someone and one will go wrong, and that is the one that the person will remember. They will have people feel they were treated unfairly and they need to know how to be a strong leader to survive.
He said you’ll need to sleep at night and there are basically only 3 people who sleep at night when they are in a management position: those that know they made decisions to the best of their ability and put others first (not everyone will think you did good – just know in your heart what you are and who you are), those that don’t care about others and use them to their advantage and those that don’t know any better. I know he was right…I made it my vow to stay in the first group. My mentor provided me a solid foundation to build my skills on…and prepared me for what happens everyday. He said that in time, as a leaders influence becomes greater, the attacks get stronger. He said to be prepared to push others to think, to challenge them to be more than they could ever imagine they would be and be even more prepared for some to kick back and hate you for it. If they start to fall or they don’t like what they see in themselves, they may hate you for it. Above all, he told me to be able to look at things objectively, accept that I’ll make mistakes and flat out screw up…no one is above that. The invaluable lessons that he taught me were that in leadership you need to be prepared to be disliked, hated, accused, and when you think you are on the right track someone will reach out and beat you up for what you stand for – even when they don’t have all the information or are completely off base…take it. Take it with your head held high because you can’t change what they do to you, only the way you react to it.
My mentor told me to remain humble. He told me….let the ego go…he reminded me of the “boss” that made us address him as “Mr” and how I’d walk right up to him and call him by his first name. He told me, “don’t ever lose that spirit, Janelle. Don’t be put in a box and waste talent on being a “yessir” kinda girl.” I’m forever grateful for his lessons and giving me the permission I needed to challenge popular thinking…that was the start of the leadership training I needed and will be forever grateful for. My goal, is to create more leaders like he did for me. I’m always looking for talent and want to surround myself with people who will push not only me however, have “no fear” to push the limits to grow their business and the business of others. I’ve chosen to be a leader and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Are you or someone you know wanting to grow? Call me and let’s talk.