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7 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was A First-Time Leader

7 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was A First-Time Leader

“Leadership is hard to define and good leadership even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.” – Indra Nooyi

Leadership is a tough thing to do and as a first time leader in my late 20’s I honestly had no idea about leadership, let alone know what it meant to be a leader. I was a Deputy Principal at an all girls secondary school with significant leadership responsibilities. I didn’t  even know there was a difference being a leader and a manager.

I don’t think I was an appalling leader and that people despised me (well some may have),but I was definitely not an effective leader. I didn’t motivate or encourage people. I essentially told people what to do.

My leadership style was based on my personality and teaching experience – in that I was able to control a crowd and could tell people what to do with confidence and control. The teaching staff and students did what I told them to do and that was how I measured how successful I was in my leadership role! Even as I write this I am squirming and feel very uncomfortable at my lack of insight and plain ignorance on leadership and what it took for me be a successful and effective leader.

“Leadership is an opportunity to serve. It is not a trumpet call to self-importance.” – J Donald Walters

To be completely truthful the quote from J. Donald Walters describes so perfectly what leadership really meant to me, not that I would have admitted it at the time.  To me, leadership was about feeding my ego and sense of self importance. There was no consideration by me as to whether I would make a good leader.  I took on the role because it made me feel important and I got paid more money! There I have said it!

I didn’t enjoy my time in the leadership role. I found it frustrating, time consuming, demanding and restrictive. I was not ready to be a leader and I had taken on the leadership role too soon. I only lasted a year as the Deputy Principal and it was a miserable year for me. I had gone from loving teaching to hating it. I was demotivated and desperately wanted to leave, which I eventually did at the end of the year.

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My experience as a Deputy Principal left me with very little confidence about my leadership abilities. In fact for a long time I avoided accepting positions with any leadership role or responsibilities because I didn’t believe I had great leadership potential.

Now with the benefit of hindsight I look back at my younger self and if I had known these seven things about leadership, it would have saved me a lot of grief. I would have been so better prepared, far more effective and much happier in my leadership role.

1. Leaders Are Courageous

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill

Leaders are not afraid to face the messy moments and will face up to their mistakes. They are prepared to be vulnerable and they know they don’t have all the answers. They are agents of change and they are future-oriented thinkersdedicated to doing what ever it takes to get there.

Leaders are risk takers and they take risks from a place of strength – in that they are thorough in their preparation, are are willing to step out with confidence, understanding what is at stake. Leaders have the courage to make the tough decisions, to change direction and to deliver the bad news when people don’t want to hear it. Leaders also need courage to be innovative and creative.

2. Leaders Know Who They Are.

“Your first and foremost job as a leader is to take charge of your own energy and then help to orchestrate the energy of those around you.” – Peter F. Drucker

Leaders know their self worth, understand their own emotions and recognise the impact on self and others.  Leaders manage energy within themselves and in their relationships. Leaders know their blind spots and have the courage to look at themselves honestly.

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Leaders who know who they are, have a strong sense of personal leadership and it is this base of leadership that is the foundation from which great leaders operate. There has been a lot of academic research on leadership and many books have been published about these different types of leadership styles – transformational leadership, transactional leadership, situational leadership etc, however, leaders who have a strong sense of personal leadership lead from their own place of authenticity. They are Authentic Leaders.

“True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed…. Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection” – Sheryl Sandberg, “Lean In”

3. Leaders Know the Difference Between The Role Of A Leader & Manager

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Stephen Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

I have included this because I believe that if I had understood the difference in the role of being a leader and a manager I probably would not have been so confused and frustrated when I was telling people to do some tasks and also at the same time trying to encourage them to be motivated about taking on the task. A leaders job is to inspire, encourage and create value. A manager’s role is to get things done – to organise and control a group of people to get tasks completed in order to accomplish a goal. Inspiration and  influence separate leaders from managers, not power and control.

I believe that you can be both, a great leader and a great manager, just as long as you are clear about which role you are undertaking as stated in the quote below from Stephen Covey.

“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall” – Stephen R. Covey

4. Leaders Accept That They Always Learning

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

Leaders never stop learning. They are always growing and reaching to improve the way they lead. They take responsibility for their own failures and mistakes and will use these experiences to help them become even better leaders.

Leaders recognise that the more knowledge they have the more creative they can be. They know that the power of knowledge is one of the best ways to overcome what ever obstacles come their way. Great leaders are always striving to know more and will seek input and advise from the people they lead. They surround themselves with people who have the skills, knowledge and experiences that they don’t have and it is these people that great leaders call on for advice and guidance.

“To make a decision, all you need is authority. To make a good decision, you also need knowledge, experience, and insight.” – Denise Moreland

5. Leaders Know They Can Not Do It Alone.

“High sentiments always win in the end, The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.” – George Orwell

Leaders only become successful through the support of others. Leaders take people with them. To gain the respect, trust and loyalty of people, leaders connect with people and are great relationship builders. If you are leading a team and you want them to perform at their best, then you to have to perform at your best. Nobody likes a leader who doesn’t walk with their people.

A great leader looks to produce other leaders and sees the potential for leadership in others.

“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader; a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

6. Leaders Are Excellent Communicators

“Great communication depends on two simple skills—context, which attunes a leader to the same frequency as his or her audience, and delivery, which allows a leader to phrase messages in a language the audience can understand.” – John Maxwell

Leaders motivate and inspire people through good communication. Leaders also understand that communication is a two way process and they will always seek feedback and clarification from people to ensure that everyone understands what is being communicated and what the leader is asking of them. This two way process of communication also allows people to feel that they have been heard and their contribution is of value to the overall goal.

“Ninety percent of leadership is the ability to communicate something people want.” – Dianne Feinstein 

 7. Leaders Are Not Afraid of Commitment 

“People do not follow uncommitted leaders. Commitment can be displayed in a full range of matters to include the work hours you choose to maintain, how you work to improve your abilities, or what you do for your fellow workers at personal sacrifice.” – Stephen Gregg

Leaders understand that success is a process and that reaching the vision and achieving the goals doesn’t happen over night. It takes time and it involves a lot of work determination and commitment to keep going. If a leader is not committed to the vision then why would the rest of the team be? It is the leaders level of commitment that influences and impacts on a team’s motivation, determination and commitment. A leader who demonstrates commitment to the vision creates and builds trust within the team. The team are therefore more willing and more committed to go that extra mile, to become top performers and exceed expectations because they trust and are inspired by their leader.

A leader who is not afraid of commitment is also not afraid to change the course of direction, if it is not going to plan. They will be looking ahead and reading the signs and will be ready to map out another course of direction for the team to follow.

It seems a bit overwhelming when you read this list of seven key things that contribute to being a great leader. I know you are thinking can I really be a great leader? The answer is YES YOU CAN! As a first time leader you have the potential to be  a great leader as long as you are informed and know what it is that you need to do to be the “best leader you can be”.

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Take these seven leadership qualities to heart and use them as the foundation blocks from which you can launch yourself from being a First Time Leader to becoming A Great Leader.

“Leadership is not so much about technique and methods as it is about opening the heart. Leadership is about inspiration—of oneself and of others. Great leadership is about human experiences, not processes. Leadership is not a formula or a program, it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others. It is an attitude, not a routine.” – Lance Secretan

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on December 2, 2020

7 Reasons Why Quitting Facebook Now Is Good for Your Future

7 Reasons Why Quitting Facebook Now Is Good for Your Future

For the past 100 years or so, there have been huge improvements in communication. From letters to phone calls to text messages to video calls to social networks. Following all these improvements, one of the biggest inventions of the 21st century was founded in 2004[1], and it started to spread like wildfire, first in the US and then around the world. Now, quitting Facebook has become nearly unheard of.

There are more than 1 billion monthly active Facebook users. Although initially it aimed to bring all people together for the sake of connecting, the effects of Facebook on masses became a huge debate after it gained so much popularity, with some even suggesting you deactivate your account.

The advantages of social media and its ability to connect us to people around the world are well known. Now, it’s time to dive into the ways Facebook affects your productivity and why you should ultimately consider quitting Facebook.

1. Facebook Allows You to Waste Time

While being on Facebook and scrolling through the news feed, many active users are not aware of the time they actually spend on viewing others’ life events or messaging with Facebook messenger. It has become so addictive that many even feel obliged to like or comment on anything that is shared.

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You might think of the time spent on Facebook as your free time, though you are not aware that you can spend the same time taking care of yourself, learning something new, or doing your daily tasks.

2. It Can Decrease Motivation

By seeing someone else’s continuous posts about the parties they went to or friends they see frequently, you might feel insecure about yourself if your own posts are not as impressive as the ones in your news feed.

However, there is rarely such a thing as going out every day or having amazing vacations every year. Unfortunately, though, we internalize the posts we see and create a picture in our minds of how others are living.

One study found that “participants who used Facebook most often had poorer trait self-esteem, and this was mediated by greater exposure to upward social comparisons on social media”[2].

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Basically, when we see posts depicting lives we consider “better” than ours, our self-esteem takes a hit. As many of us are doing this for hours at a time, you can imagine the toll it’s taking on our mental health. Therefore, if you want to raise your self-esteem, quitting Facebook may be a good idea.

3. You Use Energy on People You Don’t Care About

Look at the number of friends you have on Facebook. How many of them are really good friends? How many of the friend requests you get are real people or your actual acquaintances?

You have to admit that you have people on Facebook who are not related to you and some you barely know, but who still comments on their photos or offer a like now and again. Basically, instead of offering your time and energy to the genuinely rewarding relationships in your life, you’re spending it on people you don’t really care about.

4. Facebook Feeds You Useless Information

It is one thing to read newspapers or magazines in order to get information, but it is an entirely different thing to be faced with false news, trends, and celebrity updates through continuous posts. I bet one of the things that you will not miss after quitting Facebook is the bombardment of information that seems to have no effect on your life whatsoever.

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5. It Damages Your Communication Skills

When is the last time you actually hung out in real life with your friends, relatives, or colleagues? Because of the social media that is supposed to help us communicate, we forget about real communication, and therefore, have difficulties communicating effectively in real life. This negatively affects our relationships at home, work, or in our social circles.

6. You Get Manipulated

One of the biggest problems of Facebook is its influence on people’s creativity. Although it is assumed to be a free social media site, which let’s you to share almost anything you want, you have this tendency to want to get more likes[3].

In order to get more likes, you must work very hard on your shared posts, trying to make it funny, creative, or clever, while you could spend the same time doing something that genuinely improves your creativity. After quitting Facebook, you’ll be amazed at all the creative hobbies you have time to develop.

7. It Takes Over Your Life

The marketing strategy of Facebook is quite clear. Its creators want you to spend as much time as possible on the site. While working on their posts and choosing which pictures to share, many people actually try to be someone else. This often means they end up being isolated from the real world and their true selves.

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It is possible to put the same time and energy toward becoming a better version of yourself instead of faking it. Why not try it by quitting Facebook?

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons to try quitting Facebook. By knowing how it may be impacting your productivity and mental health, you can search for motivation to get off social media and back into your real life.

These points will guide you in seeing what your life would be like if you were to delete your account. Leaving Facebook doesn’t sound so bad after all, does it?

More on How to Quit Social Media

Featured photo credit: Brett Jordan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Guardian: A brief history of Facebook
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Better by Today: Do Facebook ‘Likes’ Mean You’re Liked?

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