Reverse-Engineering Leadership: What Leadership Is Not [REVISITED]

June 9, 2020

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 2019 and has been revisited one year later.

Leadership. We hear the word thrown around quite a bit – and in countless different situations. From high school sports teams to politics and everything in between, we need leaders in our lives to guide the way the world is being shaped by our collective actions.

Over my years of working at John Lynch & Associates, true leadership is evident in how our C-level executives interact with their team.

Katie Lynch, Chief Operating Officer, goes above and beyond for her team, helping people achieve personal goals, and gives clear, supportive direction. John Lynch, Chief Executive Officer, is a visionary who thinks so far past the here and now that he is able to inspire others and gets everyone moving in the same direction. I highly encourage you to read both their leadership insights. Access John’s leadership insight here and Katie’s insight here.

In my previous leadership post, I shared my ‘not so great’ leadership experiences, how I have grown throughout my career, and outlined characteristics of great leaders that included integrity, vision, and humility among other qualities. As I revisit this post a year later I reflect, not on my continued development as a leader but rather what was holding me back.

So what was holding me back? Great question. Here is my journey.

This is Leadership? No thanks.

As the Director of Marketing & Business Development at John Lynch & Associates, I am blessed with countless opportunities to see powerful, transformative leadership models in action every day. However, that was not always the case.

Early in my career, I was a marketing manager for a commercial real estate firm. I was responsible for leading a team, however, not given any authority to make decisions or to hold others accountable for getting their portion of a project completed on time. Inevitably, I grew to believe it was a problem with me, my talents, and my work quality.

Furthermore, I never knew where I stood with my boss. Was she disappointed in me? Was she angry? Was my job in danger? I was fraught with questions and was craving clarity and reassurance.

Can you relate to this situation?

However, what I eventually came to realize was that my boss’s inability to trust, delegate, and empower her staff was actually a leadership problem. Sadly, the lack of leadership in our office bred feelings of paranoia and quashed any sense of joy in my work.

Aha! My Weed-Plucking Moment

I recently had my quarterly review with my boss. He mentioned how pleased he was with my growth in my position and leadership. Walking away from that conversation, I realized I mentally felt different. I felt rejuvenated, focused. It was like a cloud was lifted from my eyes and I could see and think clearly.

So what was the change? I just could not put my finger on it. What have I been doing differently?

Rolling those thoughts around in my brain, I tried to pinpoint the ‘game changer’. Was it my vitamins? Perhaps it was my healthy eating habits (though that wasn’t happening at the moment). Was it a trending blog post I recently read or a leadership podcast I recently listened to? What was different now?

As I pondered these questions, it dawned on me that the answer wasn’t my self care habits or implementing the latest five point plan I read in a leadership book.


The answer…

My confidence (or lack thereof). But the answer was much deeper than that. Over the years, I realized I have always struggled with lack of confidence in one form or another. Confidence in my knowledge, skills, and so on. The poor leadership I experienced early in my career compounded that feeling. My lack of confidence was a weed that had taken root in my mind – a dark ugly weed that was holding me back from so much more.

Furthermore, I was comparing myself, my calling, my gifts and talents, to others and trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be. To put it simply, I was not running my race or even staying in my lane.

My ‘aha’ moment came when I scrolled passed an image on social media of a person holding a message board that said ‘Stop comparing your calling’. I know this message, I have heard and read it several times before but in that moment – in my ‘aha’ moment – that message spoke to me loud and clear.

How could my confidence flourish when I spend so much time comparing my calling to others?

I have been perfectly equipped to run MY race, MY calling. My problem was that I looked to either side of me when I should have been looking forward. Comparison was the enemy of my calling. Why? Because I can not fulfill my purpose when I am looking at what others are doing. I am not called to run someone else’s race. I will not win running someone else’s race. I am called to run my race.

So my challenge to you – stop comparing your calling to others. You will not win that race. Rather, look forward and hold on tight. Your race will be filled with challenging times but with even greater reward on the other side.

I am grateful for this past year’s journey as it has allowed me to grow through challenging times and thrust me to the next level. I look forward to revisiting this post next year and sharing my new ‘aha’ moments with you.

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