I have always prided myself on my management and leadership skills throughout my career.
I have always tried to be extremely conscious of leading by example, giving colleagues freedom to make their own decisions and to foster trust, self organisation and ownership within teams that I have managed.
In hindsight, I feel that this has been the illusion of leadership dressed up as good management and I have only had my first real experience of myself as a leader very recently.
One of the teams that I am responsible for is recruiting for a new team member. I had left the team’s director and team leader to run the recruitment process and I would only be involved at second interview stage to sense check and offer a second opinion.
The two people that I met with were very different and I had quite strong opinions on whom we should hire.
Being relatively new to my role, I have already built up a strong relationship with the team’s director and I know how long it has taken him to build up his team and to build a great level of trust, self organisation and ownership – much like how I have prided my teams in the past.
There I was, sat with him and his Team Lead trying to convince him that my opinion was right. I caught myself doing this and very quickly realised that I had been on the other side of the table on the receiving end of such a conversation in the past and how I had felt.
I’m meant to be helping, coaching, and mentoring; not dictating, persuading and influencing like other managers had done to me.
Very quickly I stopped what I was saying mid-conversation and apologised. I explained that I was letting my passion for doing what I felt right for the team, cloud what I should have been doing… Trusting my team to self organise and own the process. Going against the very principles that I had prided myself on.
This has been a very important lesson for me and this is definitely a moment where I can see my leadership qualities starting to come out.
Being self conscious and striving to lead is important, but it really needs to come from within and be a part of you. It also takes time to learn and for it to be a natural part of your everyday being.
I have read many books and blog posts on leadership so I know the theory. Even though I have been putting these things I have learned into practise, it’s only now that I feel that I am taking that important first step into being a great leader.