I’ve had some successes and failures as a leader lately. I want to write down what I’m learning.
Here is what I’m learning as a leader:
1. I’m leaning into my human work. I ain’t no boss, and I sure ain’t no manager. Bosses like to tell other people what to do, and managers check up on people to make sure they did what they were supposed to do. I hate both of those. Leaders serve. And who are they serving? Humans. And humans are messy. I’m messy. It seems, “Messy + Messy = Miscommunication, Confusion, and Frustration.” But what if “Messy + Messy = Opportunities to Become Better Humans?” I’m learning that it does mean that, at least for me. So I’m leaning into people. I’m leaning into my partner, Julie Shipp. I’m leaning into my team. And I’m leaning into my wife. I’m leaning into my clients. Leaning into human work means you are going to step on toes, and awkwardly do and say things you didn’t mean. But I’m going to do it anyway because I believe leaning into humans will bring great transformation for me, my team, and my clients.
2. I want the promises more than I want to avoid the pain. Have I mentioned that leadership is messy? Wow, I meant it. When I want to lean into leadership, I guess I’m saying I have formed a theory that I am beginning to believe. My theory is, “If I allow myself as a leader to focus more on people, even with the missteps and wrong words spoken, then I believe stronger relationships will be created that can be used to further transform the people we serve.” Or something like that. I can just barely see the promises of leadership over the horizon. And I want what (I think) I see. I’ve decided to walk towards the promises of a bigger vision that includes a bigger team, serving larger clients, and creating new business models and positions in our firm that have never existed before. But I may often shrink back because of the things I have to do to get there. The pain of ‘human work’ is in my way. What do I do? Some shrink back and decide not to hire. Some wonder if they can actually pull off the new vision. But I want the promises more than I want to avoid the pain. So I take one more step, and I find there are people around me that want me to succeed. So I lean on them while I walk.
3. Sometimes you relieve burdens, and sometimes you increase them. My partner and I have been crafting a new firm vision for a while, so we are comfortable with it. Further, we are now excited about it. But we just shared it with our team, and it feels heavy to them (I think). Heavy is okay, and sometimes you need to pick up heavy stuff. My CrossFit coach never tells me to “take some weight off.” He wants to see what I’ll do when I’ve picked up something too heavy. Will I go back to CrossFit tomorrow? It’s like that when leading a team. A team needs to feel the weight of a vision, or it’s no vision at all (is that true?). A vision is something we can barely see, but we can’t have yet. To get there will be a journey, and we all have to pick up some heavy things to get there. It’s the leader’s job to hand those heavy things to a team… sometimes. There are other times when a leader needs to take the weight from the team and carry it for a little while. This is a hard balance to juggle, but a leader gets better at knowing when to increase the burden on the team, or when to relieve it.
4. You have to sign up to be a leader. It seems leaders step up and say, “I think I’m the leader you need.” You are not crowned with leadership. You have to sign up, show up, and prove it every day. Hiring someone is one way to say, “I am the leader.” Some days you don’t prove your claim on leadership, so then you have to deal with the issue of leadership failure. Nevertheless, I think it is important to self-identify as the leader. This is such a mental battle, because most good leaders never feel like they are enough of a leader. They feel like they have never arrived, so it seems arrogant to say, “I am the leader you need.” Could it be a leader is not the perfect leader, but a consistent leader? You don’t have to have all of the answers, or be able to tell someone what to do – maybe people just need a leader that will never leave them. I can sign up to be consistent.
5. If you are selling a vision, there have to be buyers. I’ve been reminded this past week that there have to buyers when you are the seller. We take this for granted in our work. I think we assume there are buyers, but that isn’t always so. This past week, my partner and I laid out a huge plan for our firm’s growth over the next 2 to 3 years. If we wanted to put a boulder in our path, then this was it. Our vision was so big it scared some of our team. Gulp. I didn’t expect that. Julie and I have worked so hard on our vision, and poured such emotional energy into creating it, that we assumed the buyers of our vision would jump right on board. They didn’t, and I don’t blame them. If you are selling a vision, the buyers need time to come around to realizing they want what you are selling. We have to give the buyers time to process, think, and come with us to achieve that vision.
I’ve truly been thinking about leadership a lot lately. I’ve been challenged as a leader, and I think I’ve grown. I love to get better, even if it is a painful journey. What leadership lessons are you learning?
Jason is the Founder of Thriveal and the Chief Innovative Officer of his CPA firm, Blumer & Associates. He is the co-host of the Thrivecast and The Businessology Show and speaks and writes frequently for CPAs and creatives, his firm’s chosen niche. Jason loves to watch documentaries on just about anything. He lives in Greenville, SC with his wife and their three children. Stay connected with Jason by signing up at JasonBlumer.com.