All of us should be striving to be experts. To be the leaders in our industries. In our organizations, our churches, our schools, our businesses, our non profits, our networks and associations.
These are a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the years in the pursuit of being a thought leader, an expert, a leader. I haven’t arrived in any way, but thought these might be helpful as we all strive to get better and continue to gain more influence.
1. Actively Build a Support Network- including those who can help you on the journey, and those who will be real with you regardless of what you become. Beware of CEO disease, the temptation to surround yourself with people who only tell you what you want to hear. Keep honest people in your life so that you can stay grounded in the reality of your experiences. Don’t start to suffer from Reality Deprivation Syndrome.
2. Don’t think You’ve Arrived- Banish the phrase, “I’m done” from your vocabulary. The best leaders never stop learning and see every opportunity, success or failure, as a learning opportunity.
3. Don’t take yourself so seriously. You’re not a big deal. Seriously. I don’t care who you are. Humility is way more attractive than arrogance. Humor is way more attractive than hubris.
4. Celebrate Your Rivals- Jealously is natural, but how you respond to it is not. When you find yourself tempted to speak ill about a rival or secretly wrestle with jealousy, flip that emotion on its head. Find ways to celebrate your rivals and when you run into a new one, let the first question you ask yourself be, “How can I help this person win?”
5. Be Generous. Both with your time as well as your expertise and experience. Don’t forget- you were once a greenhorn who didn’t know anything. As soon as you are an expert or a thought leader, it’s time to start passing on what you know to others younger or less experienced than you. It’s NOT the time to become arrogant and protected and sheltered by an assistant or entourage.
6. Bring others with you. Take your team with you. Take your family with you. Bring as many people along on the journey as possible. Going on a trip? Take a co-worker. Traveling international? Bring your child. Business meeting in NYC? Bring your spouse. Community is paramount to longevity as a leader. Isolation is one of the most dangerous habits you can develop. True, authentic, longterm friendships are a game changer.
7. Congruence between your inner and outer worlds. Work on character as much as competency. Don’t let your outer world start to outdistance and outpace and overtake the intentionality of your inner world. Heart and character and conviction and moral fiber must be maintained and developed and grown as you continue to build your competency, expertise, relational equity, networks, influence and ambition.
8. Flow between the five stages of creative development. Don’t get stuck in one. Taken in concert, these five stages can be healthy, important parts of growing any creative endeavor. Isolated and obsessed on, any one of these stages can cripple your best intentions. Focus on moving between them. The key is to not just hang out in the “caretaker” stage, where you protect and defend everything you’ve developed, but instead keep returning to the “craft” stage, constantly creating new ideas, projects, organizations and impact.
STAGE #1- Craft – You create something out of passion for the art of it.
STAGE #2- Crowd – An audience discovers you’re good at your passion.
STAGE #3- Commission – You earn money for the thing you love to do.
STAGE #4- Career – You turn a passion into your profession.
STAGE #5- Caretaker – You protect and nurture the thing you’ve created, and do everything you can to “defend” your turf. A dangerous phase.