Last week I had the pleasure of working with 24 female leaders committed to advancing their leadership capacity and capability. Not because they were struggling, but because that's what successful leaders do. They continually evolve by building assets and augment existing skills.
This matters because success, however that is defined for you, requires the highest levels of personal leadership. To have the courage to put your skills to work and pursue the things that matter to you. This is where we exist most powerfully and is the cornerstone for any successful leader - and it comes with a real challenge.
Be yourself. Be the best version of you as defined by you.
Not by what Richard Branson, Steve Jobs or (insert inspirational person's name here) would do. Leaders with no sense of self become leaders people don't follow. So the challenge of leadership isn't to find a better boss, bigger job title or better project. Our challenge is to find out what it feels like to step into the courageous act of living on purpose. To seek out opportunities, stand up for what matters to us and make something positive happen.
When you leverage your strengths, you work harder, achieve more and feel happier. The people you see getting ahead, getting well paid or living the good life, don't know something you don't. They have just found their way to keep moving forward and make things happen. Identifying your strengths and learning how to use them effectively gets you further, faster and with less effort.
So it makes sense to put them work. Here are five things you can do to make a start.
1. Leverage your strengths
Our work becomes harder when we move away from our core capability. This means you need to know what works for you, and then build the additional assets you need to deliver the results you desire. Your skills act as your currency. Working outside them, or adopting someone else's, is like taking Monopoly money down to your local milk bar to buy bread. You won't get very far...
2. Be a revolutionary
This doesn't mean quitting your day job, confronting your colleagues, or re-hashing the motivational rah-rah that is often pedalled to improve performance. Being a revolutionary means having the courage to make a stand when you find yourself at the intersection of what needs to change and what maters to you. Not espouse what should be done, could be done or needs to be done; but getting up, doing it and embracing the other people who come and stand beside you.
3. Suspend comparisons
We are adept at seeing the best in everyone else and the worst in ourselves. Our sense of self is best served when we focus on our own assets and attributes, not compare ourselves to other people. Seeing what others do is healthy. Staying true to yourself is heroic.
4. Develop foresight
Acquiring knowledge and a deeper understanding as to why we do certain things, or react a certain way, is a pre-requisite for making positive change. Particularly when talking about repetitive patterns of behaviour that don't serve us well. Seeing these patterns ahead of time means we can anticipate problems, and forward plan the use of more productive behaviours.
5. Embrace change
Making any meaningful change means moving beyond our current reality and compliance, and this requires a willingness to do things differently. For things to change things have to change. Old leadership theories focused on controlling the controllables, but this can keep us restricted and limited. Our new mantra should be: build the skills you need to move what matters to you.
The good news is that you don't have to start full-time. You can start part-time. You can start these strategies with the people, environments or circumstances where you feel comfortable. Just make a start. Build your assets, apply them consistently and watch the world shift for you.