Turns out, you have to work hard to become the type of leader you want to be. Ugh.
I’ve run the development team at Ample for eight years now, and during that time, I’ve seen both success and failure. I’ve connected with many folks and have built relationships that will endure a lifetime. I’ve also had plenty of disagreements and low points along the way, upon which I reflect daily.
And through all that, I’ve learned a ton.
I’ve learned that management is not the same thing as friendship. Encouraging, inspiring & motivating while delivering candid feedback is a delicate balancing act. I’ve learned that it is important to deliver feedback in a manner that comports with the person receiving it. Most importantly, I’ve learned that receiving feedback is a gift and one that every single person in an organization can benefit from, regardless of title.
Practicing active-listening techniques and iteratively clarifying feedback from your team members is both necessary and critical. Parsing language is a tricky business, so it’s extremely important to confirm that the intent behind the messages shared is properly understood.
When I was younger, I idolized those in leadership. Naively, I thought that if I could be the guy in charge, everything would be easier. I wouldn’t have to answer to anybody, and I could finally make the rules. The boss is clueless anyway, right?
But the truth is, once you’re in a position of leadership, you have more people to answer to… not less. The truth is, leadership sucks in a lot of ways. Figuring out how to align resources – or how to inspire & motivate while projecting compassion and kindness – is no fucking joke. Whether you’re a parent, a politician, or a CEO, leading & inspiring others is the hardest job of all time.
When describing the core competencies of a leader, “integrity” is a word that surfaces frequently. Integrity is the practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values. Brene Brown describes integrity as “choosing courage over comfort; it’s choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast or easy; and it’s practicing your values, not just professing them.”
I love that quote because it completely encapsulates the challenge of leading others. It’s easy to say you stand for the right thing or that you’re willing to challenge a complex problem, but it’s much different to put those values into practice.
As leaders, we sometimes make poor choices or set into motion a direction that fails to deliver. It’s important to confront that reality with an honest assessment grounded in your personal values. Turns out, you might be wrong… and that’s okay – as long as you’re prepared to accept that reality and re-triangulate to a more informed path.
The world needs strong leaders now more than ever. With all the polarization, tribalism, and misinformation, we need folks that can ask the hard questions and confront the real challenges. Melinda Gates said that “determined leadership grounded in integrity, compassion and grace can profoundly change the world.” This is a powerful statement. It identifies integrity as a guiding principle for leadership and establishes how important it is to hedge your reaction in a compassionate and forthright manner. And if anybody knows a thing or two about changing the world, it’s Melinda Gates.
Leading requires standing up against opinions that are contrary to your values. It means challenging historically entrenched attitudes. It means sometimes saying no when everybody else is saying yes. It means forming your opinion based on observable data & realistic constraints and not on gut intuition. Being a leader means taking responsibility and rarely receiving credit for having done so.
Identifying and correcting behaviors within oneself and within others is hard business. Being honest about your weaknesses and holding oneself to account requires real vulnerability. Establishing trust with your team demands awareness and honesty and will absolutely pay off when disagreements demand hard confrontation.
It is these virtues that encourage me every day when I reflect on my failures. After seven years, I know that by empowering others and by pushing authority down, we create an environment that is more diverse, more considerate, and more compassionate. And it shows in the work.
It is through this lens that I’m proud to lead a team of such unique and creative individuals. Every single day, I am humbled by the creative solutions, the sensitivity and vulnerability they carry. Despite, or perhaps because of, the hard & vigilant work required to ensure a safe & inclusive space, I am proud to be a part of this team.
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