To say I ‘fell’ into leadership is probably a little unfair, but when I found myself running a small sales team several years ago, I fully admit to suffering from imposter syndrome.
Somehow, I’d achieved a position of authority (and a board seat) without any formal training. Not only that, but I’d spent several years at the same company working within the lower ranks.
How did that happen?
Now, I’m running my own tiny business (‘tiny’, because it’s just me), and looking back at that period with fresh eyes and a slightly more worldly mind-set, I can identify three things I did to become a leader without any formal training…
I didn’t chase a big salary
At school, I fancied being either a professional writer or doing something in the IT field.
I opted for the latter, and, had I been determined enough, I may well have put my brief schooling in software programming to use. Who wouldn’t after all, want to bag a salary that now stands at an average of $92,000/year?
Alas, I didn’t. I simply waited and jumped at opportunities within the same company to lead – not to earn a big pay-packet.
I didn’t attempt to be anyone but myself
I’m not a fan of conflict, nor am I particularly loud, brash or extrovert. Yet, it’s often assumed that leaders need those personality traits in droves if they’re to be successful.
I found the opposite was true.
I wanted to become a leader, but one who was known for being open, approachable and capable of listening. It was something of a relief, therefore, to find that being ‘Mr Nice Guy’ is considered by many to actually not be a bad thing at all.
I made a bucket load of mistakes
With the benefit of a few extra years’ experience, I now look back at my time as leader of that small team and realise the most important thing I did was slip up – regularly.
At the time, I felt inadequate – embarrassed, even – when I made a mistake, but I now understand the value of being infallible.
I never made the same mistake twice. In fact, I did everything I could to rectify any slip up and ensure it would never happen again.
But that wasn’t all; I readily admitted when I got something wrong. Rather than burying my head in the sand, brushing the error under the carpet or apportioning blame, I always put my hand up and acknowledged it was me.
Don’t get me wrong, this was never particularly easy – nor did it always elicit the best response from the team – but it did make me a much better leader.
I lead just myself these days, and I love it, but I wouldn’t swap those years spent as the leader of a small team for anything. They molded my personality and made me capable of starting my own business.
Imposter syndrome is no bad thing at all, and while leadership training should always be considered, if you happen to fall into such a role, my tale will hopefully give you some reassurance that you’ll be just fine.
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