In most of the things we do we are setting some goals. If it’s about sports – the goal is to run half-marathon or to win an Olympic medal. In business – to get a promotion or to seal the deal with a big client. Or in personal life, to get married or to have five kids. Or just one.
And it seems to me it’s quite normal when setting those goals to take into consideration capabilities, the time at our disposal, competition or any other realistic circumstance. If nothing, we are setting those goals based on a certain ambition that we have.
If I’m talking with colleagues and friends about leadership or reading articles or books, in many cases I get the feeling it’s – all or nothing. Also, when you talk to people from different companies, it looks like they get the impression that they are either leaders or not. And based on that impression they practice their leadership skills or they quit. Sometimes, those who believe they have leadership potential don’t judge the level of that potential well, and that’s when the trouble starts…
I’m not going to debate the famous doubt: if leaders are born or raised. The reality in the business environment of 21st century is that leaders are needed all over the place. Leaders are required all over the place. Everyone wants leaders on all levels and in all departments of their company. So it’s clear – you need to raise them. Because there is no chance that so many of them were born and then hired by an HR department in your amazing company.
But on that leadership journey many people have a very hard time. And many people stop, fail, get disappointed… Unfortunately, instead of becoming better professionals, better people managers, better project managers, they become not-so-good leaders and they frustrate everyone around including themselves.
Due to this reason I’m arguing for a fair setting of leadership goals. Because we are not all made to win the Olympics. But if you set your leadership goals well it might just happen that you can be happy and that people around you might end up much happier and more satisfied. From the company’s point of view I believe this can be essential: instead of losing solid people just because they are not the best leaders, or pushing the average ones to pretend they want to be exceptional – I don’t see how any organization can profit from this.
How can we set our leadership goals properly? Ideally, this should be done together with a company you are working for. But since it might happen that you will not find that much support for such a thing, give it a shot by yourself.
- Assess the leadership needs of your organization/department. It’s a big lie that superb leadership is needed for every job, every department and every organization. It can always be beneficial but it’s not always essential for success. Do not cast your pearls before swine.
- Assess your leadership appetite. We are not all eager to be leaders. We are not all made to enjoy it. And if you don’t enjoy it after some time you are going to hate it.
- Dedicate significant time to introspection and try to understand yourself, before trying to understand anyone else. Expose yourself to a variety of situations where you will be able to understand how you react to various challenges, mostly in relationships with people around you. Does it come easy or painful for you to give negative feedback? Is that too easy for you? Can you survive a complete failure of a project you are working on?
- Discover what it is you believe in and what you stand for without compromise. And where and when you are ready to compromise.
- Try to accept the fact that it’s OK to quit. People who never quit can’t be good leaders.
Fun fact: Many people quit their jobs after they attend some sort of leadership training.
They either realize that they don’t want to do whatever it is they are doing at the moment or they don’t like the organization that sent them to the training because they don’t want to be pushed to be leaders. And while it is not the end of the world if something like this happen, neither for a company or an individual, you must ask yourself: why spend years with wrong goals and wrong perception of who you are and what you should become? And from the company prospective: why invest so wrongly into people? It’s money, but also lost time and opportunity.
I would be happy if I could help organizations and individuals in setting proper goals for their individual and organizational leadership development. But in order to be able to do this I have to expose myself to new experiences and to set new leadership goals for myself. I’ve spent too much time casting my pearls before swine.
Cheers to everyone who is capable to set honest goals for anything he/she is doing. This doesn’t mean that one should not set high targets. It’s just about time to understand that “we can do anything if we want to” is nothing but one big lie.
Movie recommendation for the weekend is They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969).