Someone close to me recently asked what I would do if I removed fear from the life equation I was struggling with. Fear of failing, fear of disappointing people, fear of making money, fear of doing the wrong thing by my kids and family. Fear, fear, fear. She’s a friend and a very successful businesswoman who I trust greatly as a professional advisor. I found my instantaneous answer clear and enlightening.
I realised in that moment the power fear can hold over you, if you let it. I also realised that all of the things I feared were born out of the pressure I placed on myself to avoid taking too big a risk. If I removed that I was left with excitement, energy and a vision for the opportunities that were right before me.
If you’re weighing up a big decision, ask yourself what you would do if fear didn’t play a role and see where you land. It was amazing to me how quickly I was able to clearly see through the clutter of all the variables.
In the end, to be remarkable at anything I truly believe there needs to be an element of risk and fear. It’s there that you find the kind of greatness most people aren’t willing to be uncomfortable for.
I have had the good fortune of working with some incredibly gracious, generous and inspiring leaders. They have meant more to my career than I can probably yet predict.
What I can predict is how important their guidance and operational style has been to my understanding of what really makes a good leader.
Time. Everyone is time poor. A good leader understands this and treats everyone’s time with respect, regardless of their position in the company. This includes giving time to those who need you, especially for mentoring or decision-making. There has been nothing more frustrating to me than a leader who demands something for urgent review and then takes a lifetime to review it. Without explanation, that’s just rude. Everyone is busy, including the people below you. It’s also been empowering to watch a select few inspiring people continue to treat those below them with the respect most leaders reserve only for the c-suite. It’s incredibly powerful to see what that means to the people in a business.
There are many facets, but at the core I truly believe one of the most important characteristics of a good leader has to be the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes… especially those beneath you. There you will find a group of ambitious, dedicated and hard working people who are at the forefront of your business and its ability to operate. They have ideas, often big ideas and they can understandably resent not having an avenue to share them. They also see the things that don’t work very quickly, simply because it’s their day-to-day jobs that are often affected by decisions at the top.
Understanding who people really are and what they really do should be mandatory for making good, sound strategic decisions. Without this understanding it is easy to lose touch with what makes the wheel turn and how long tasks really take.
No good leader is born at the top. I’m hugely grateful to all of my mentors for reminding me what matters, their endless graciousness and the time and experiences they have shared with me… even when I was the person with the least power.