24 October 2011

How I got here

Have you ever heard someone say “so and so was been promoted to leadership”?  Often, when someone says this they mean to imply that the promotion itself was the de facto cause for anointing someone else a leader.  But here’s what I want you to consider: is Leadership something you get by promotion, or is it something you bring with you to a leadership position?  In other words, Is leadership positional, or is it personal?  When I was in the Army, I had more than one conversation about this with other officers.  Usually it would center around the observation that a disproportionate share of Generals were West Point grads, so the questions we asked ourselves was, “does West Point make the General, or do future Generals go to West Point?”  (A proverbial Chicken or the Egg dilemma.)
I did not consider myself a leader until about twenty years ago.  Growing up, I was never the one selecting the teams for playground baseball (I was, in fact, almost always selected last).  The youngest of four kids, no one asked for my opinion; I was expected to go along with family decisions.  As I grew older, I made most of my decisions based on what I thought was “right” (I’ll talk about the power of “the shoulds” in a later post) not on what I really felt compelled to do.  I made a lot of mistakes, but in the process I learned that I was a person of value, even if no one else was publically confirming my value.  I could make my own decisions, but I (and only I) was responsible for the outcome.  I began to lead myself.
Any number of people can speak more eloquently than I on the general nature of leadership – that will not be my focus.  These blog posts will be a recollection of my journey toward discovering that I can lead and that others will follow, if I am honest, open and humble (I’ll address each of these attributes of leadership in later posts as well).  My journey has been led by reading many great leaders write about their own leadership journeys, and I will refer to them often.  You can refer to my reading list on the right side banner if you’d care to read along.

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