By Liana Bran, IHCC Program Director
At the end of last year the first cohort of IHCC’s The Founders’ Assembly came to a close. Over the past four months, six leaders came together to share how their teams, and more importantly, their ability to lead them, play a role in some of their biggest challenges. During this time, The Founders came together, “assembled,” if you will, to help each other explore these obstacles to growth more deeply and support one another to act on the tough decisions leaders are tasked to make every day.
I was fortunate enough to be part of these conversations and to see the “other side of leadership.” As a member of a team, it is easy to be quick to judge our leaders and point out their missteps. But leadership is tough; our culture teaches us it is something we should all want, should all aspire to, and yet, it can feel heavy. It can feel lonely. That makes connecting with and learning from other leaders all the more valuable.
Perhaps not surprisingly, in spite of the variety of organizations represented among The Founders, many of the themes at the heart of our discussions were the same. Together we uncovered some key learnings that will stay with me as I continue to define what leadership means for me:
1) Don’t accept the status quo. Make the hard choice.
For me, leadership means pushing what is possible, helping people live and work to their full potential and seeing the world as it can be, not as it is. Change can be uncomfortable, painful even, and fear of what that change means for us and others can paralyze us. During the course of our time together, several of The Founders made some tough decisions, but they all found that acting on them was the best thing they could have done for the organization and everyone involved.
2) Trust your gut (and the rest of your body). Listen to what it is telling you.
It surprised me how often The Founders already had a strong sense of what they had to do but did not trust themselves enough to act on it. For them, the value of peer support was in affirming what they already knew. This fact does not diminish the importance of making thoughtful, informed decisions, but as a leader, if your gut is telling you something needs to change, you should probably listen.
3) When you let your commitments rather than your fears guide you, you are empowered to make decisions and lead with clarity.
Knowing whether you have made the right decision is easier when you understand your organizational and personal goals, values, and commitments and can see how your decisions align with them. These decisions feel so much better than decisions we make out of fear or to avoid some outcome.
4) Make time to be strategic and “plan from the end.”
We can be so much more effective if we understand where we want to go and what we need to do each day to get there. Otherwise, it is easy to get derailed in the day-to-day noise of life. To do this well, you need to constantly and intentionally make time to define your plan and make sure you stick with it (or adjust, as necessary).
5) Feedback is a gift. Don’t wait to give your team feedback; rather, share it when it is most relevant and useful.
Few of us enjoy receiving or giving “constructive” criticism. It can feel deeply personal and attack the way we see ourselves (or the way we want to see ourselves). But getting feedback is how we learn and grow! Creating a culture where feedback is welcomed may feel uncomfortable at first but is one of our most powerful tools to strengthening our organizations and the people within them.