The idea of rugged individualism is strongly embedded in our culture, including the concept that we each set out alone and make it on our own terms. This includes a belief that leaders are set apart and in possession of incredible insights. We glorify the individual journey without always crediting the fact that most of the people who have achieved great success did not do it on their own.
Instead, they had a team of people behind them, supporting them, and offering advice and perspective.
The Value of Feedback
If you are your only council, then you’re also your only point of reflection and source of information. Because you don’t know what you don’t know, gaps will inevitably occur.
Surround yourself with a network of people who will give you honest feedback, and make a commitment that you’ll be receptive to that feedback. In our book, Would You Work for You? – The Quest: Discovering the Leader Within, we wrote that “Utilizing a coach demonstrates the humility and awareness required to lead yourself, and others, effectively.”
The process of being coached, or receiving feedback, is not always comfortable. It involves hearing things you don’t always want to hear, identifying your own weaknesses, and sometimes even being called out on things you should consider doing differently. Your advisors might point out areas that could use improvement or reflection. Remember that even the best leaders have to continually challenge their own assumptions in order to continue growing and improving.
“We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk.” — Thomas Moore, writer
Creating a Trusted Circle
New leaders can be tentative about revealing how little they truly know. There’s a temptation to simply fake it until they make it, push forward, and pretend that everything is under control. But, the way to get successful early on is to build a circle within which you can confide your fears and limitations. You need people who are on your side, who are willing to tell you the truth, and who will aid you in your growth and development.
Whether you find your advisors at industry meet-ups or Toastmasters clubs, or perhaps draw from past teachers, coaches, or bosses, embracing accountability and feedback early on allows for future success. You’ll grow used to the process of receiving feedback and be more willing to engage in reflection throughout your career.
If you’re further along in your career and haven’t built a circle of advisors, it can be harder to begin, but today is the best day to start.
What Makes a Good Advisor
Seek out people who are accomplishing the things you wish to accomplish and putting the principle of leadership into action. These people should also have regular cycles of reflection and, if they’re not in a leadership position, perhaps possess helpful knowledge of technical processes or analyses.
- Who is an expert in relationships?
- Who is an expert at building teams?
- Who is expert at making the people around them feel like an important part of the organization?
- Who is the person at a gathering that everybody gravitates to because of their positive energy?
It’s also useful to have someone in your group who has grown or built something with a deep understanding of the steps required. Getting insight into that journey is invaluable for a new leader.
Ask yourself who you’re comfortable baring your soul to. You need to be able to walk in the door and say, “I blew it. It was so bad. I need help figuring out how to pick up the pieces on this one.” And, once you’ve been completely honest, you need to be able to trust that your advisors will be honest with you in return.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” — Brené Brown, researcher
Keeping the Momentum
Often fear keeps people from growing. Effective leaders step through that fear and embrace vulnerability and transparency. While this doesn’t erase fear, it allows you to control it better.
Turn to your advisors. Embrace honesty. Confess your fears, limitations, and shortcomings. Seek insight into where and how you can improve. Reflect. Everyone gets scared from time to time. If your ego is too strong, and if you’re not able to humble yourself, then you won’t grow.
Ready to learn more? Download our free eBook and begin defining your values and purpose as a leader.
Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.