Finding the Right Combination: A Lesson in Leadership

Originally posted to GovLoop 

Leadership requires constant growth and understanding of not just yourself and your management style, but also of your employees and coworkers. Critical to leadership is having a keen understanding on how to best navigate your environment to produce desired results.

At any stage of your career, you can be a leader and exhibit leadership qualities. The amazing thing about leadership is that it never ends. There is never a day when you wake up and magically can say – “I’m a great leader!” If you believe this, you are wrong – leadership is an iterative process, leaders are constantly evolving and finding new ways to lead and drive success within their organization.

There is a story from my childhood that expresses a lesson I have learned about leadership. The story is from when I was about 12 years old and my parents bought a summer home in Upstate New York. My family had a lot of great memories of the house and now as I reflect back, a great story about leadership.

One of the biggest mysteries of the home was a wall mounted safe that was in the closet of my parents bedroom from the previous owners. My imagination ran wild with what could have been inside the safe. I always envisioned opening up the safe to see a mint condition Honus Wagner baseball card. The safe has always been a spot of curiosity for me, and I have always wished I could see what was inside the safe.

This is where the leadership lesson comes into play. People are mysterious. We never really know what it is like to be inside. The combination to unlock people is never quite there. As my imagination ran wild and was completely harmless – this is not the case with leadership. Assuming you know what is happening and acting on the premonition that you “really get it,” can be a dangerous game. At the same time, traits like the ability to show empathy, concern and connect are critical to being a leader. It’s a constant balancing act. To stay balanced, leaders need to always communicate honestly and openly with coworkers and employees.

So the challenge of management becomes not necessarily always understanding how to unlock the safe, but thinking critically through all the combinations to open it up – and move forward making the right call. Overtime and by building relationships, leaders will be able to see the right numbers, but building these kinds of relationships takes time and patience.

Recently my parents sold the house and I saw the safe in my parents garage. My Dad decided he wanted to keep it and hopefully someday find out what is actually inside the safe. If it’s a Honus Wagner baseball card, I’ll let you know.

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