NEXCUE Imagination Leadership

What I Did To Radically Elevate My Leadership Skills

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When I was not happy with where I was on my professional leadership journey, I did three things to help me excel to the next level. If you are facing a similar dilemma, take what I am sharing as another perspective on how to elevate your leadership skills.

Take big risks
Many years ago, I worked at a company where my career was not growing. It was a good place to work, but my leadership development was like a snail climbing Mount Everest. So, I found an opportunity to work for a startup. Things went well, for about three months, until the owners ran out of cash. But I was grateful for the experience because it gave me the platform to hone my skills. Although I was sad about how short the journey was, it turned out to be a good dry run for my next big gig.

I don’t advocate leaving a secure job for a startup, but I did it anyway, I believe in taking risks. One of my mentors once shared I will never grow higher than my tolerance for risk. In that dead-end job, I recognized I needed to make a change. And, until that point, the main reason I had not was because I was afraid of the pain of failure. The funny thing about it is that the thing I feared happened: I lost my job. But the time I was not working was not bad. I was able to sustain myself for a few months, and then I found a bigger and better opportunity.

My new job was the perfect setup to further develop my leadership skills. But it had its issues, as well. The company was sold, and that process created new challenges for me. My boss who was grooming me to lead at a higher level resigned. I felt like I lost my captain in my rocket to the moon. Now what do I do? I needed to take another risk. After taking my last risk, I was little more comfortable pursuing a bigger one.  

In my quest for another promotion in my career, I wanted to take an even bigger risk. I decided to accept a leadership role in an advertising agency. The reason this was a big risk is because agencies are notorious for laying off their staff, in a heartbeat, when revenues are down. In the past, I worked for an agency, but as a contractor, not a fulltime employee. But this experience has proven to be the biggest and best risk I have ever taken. Not only have I grown my leadership skills and not been laid off when business was down, but I also help generate millions of dollars of revenues. And the best part about my experience is that my fear of taking big risks has diminished.

Work the process
Sometimes we are not happy with where we are because we know that we can do better. We have the skills and the know-how, but we feel like we are in the same place. In our impatience, we dismiss the one thing that determines our success more than anything. The process. Nobody changes overnight. There is no microwave success. When it comes to transforming your habits, you already know how difficult it is to do something you have never done. It’s not overnight, no matter how bad you want it. So, don’t deceive or discourage yourself if you don’t get what you want quickly. You must trust the process.

There are some things that get better when they go through the process. Fine wine tastes better when it has aged. Ceramic pottery must be matured in the fire of a kiln. It’s not instant. Your growth takes time. It takes time to learn and master a new subject. But the most important part is learning the process. The lessons you learn about going through the process, they never leave you. Once you become acquainted with following steps to achieve a desired outcome, you become less impatient. It builds your mental stamina and strengthens your focus when you work the process.

Create an alternate story
Recently, I saw the latest Spiderman movie, Across the Spiderverse. I like how the alternate universes had a different story line. What intrigued me most was how one disruption by a spiderman or villain from a different universe could alter the trajectory of a different universe. This made me think about my life when I was trying to overcome multi-generational poverty. I needed someone from a different place to disrupt my cycle of perpetuating mediocrity.

If you are not the leader you want to be, you have the power to write an alternate story. But you can’t do it on your own. You need a spiderman from a different universe to disrupt your universe. Look outside your current network, hire help, or change your approach. Do whatever you need to disrupt the routine that is preventing you from being a better leader.

You only get one shot in life. And if you are repeating the same behavior, you will never realize a different outcome. Sometimes, however, it is not so obvious. This is why you need coaches and mentors to help you write an alternate story. They helped me see what I could be in a different universe.

Take it from me, it does not matter how bad your situation is, you can disrupt your universe. You can change your trajectory just like I did. Pick up a pen and paper and start writing your new story. Ask yourself what-if questions. What if you changed your approach? What do you need to improve? What if you learned a new technique? What if you hired a coach? What could they help you improve? Use your imagination and write down the answers to these questions. Then experiment and execute.

Remember, the only thing stopping you from being who you can be is the limit you place on your imagination. This is how I leveled up my leadership skills and I am encouraging you to do the same.