“The boy who is going to make a great man must not make up his mind merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses and defeats.” - Theodore Roosevelt
All of us at some point in our lives will encounter challenges. Some people will succumb and give up, while others will try their best to work on it until they overcome and learn the lessons.
Early on in my career, I would rely on my technical capabilities to get recognized and climb the proverbial ladder. As a single performer, it was easy to do my best and let my work speak for itself. That trend was rather short lived, because as I proved that I’m capable, more and more work came my way.
It was both a recognition and challenge, because I was given the opportunity to manage others. It might sound great having a new title and being given the responsibility to manage others. It was, until the first day, when I realized that the transition from peer to manager would not be as simple as I thought.
I did my best to work through it and managed to get things done, but I did not seek anyone’s help, because I did not know that I had that option. After 10 years in my career, I characterized my career as fairly successful, but I was missing the point of how to be a leader to my team.
I had a meeting with my manager and we discussed what I needed to work on. He told me that I was efficient in getting my work done, but I didn't connect with my people. I had never thought of the folks working for me as my people. I assumed we all worked together because we were given the responsibilities to get it done.
After my meeting with my manager, I decided to look up books on leadership. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership was the first one I read. I decided that in order for me to develop my leadership ability I needed to learn from those who knew it better than everyone else.
I applied for a Seton Hall Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership (MASCL). I was fortunate to be accepted to Learning Team 21. It was the start of my leadership journey that helped me learn and develop my leadership abilities.
Over the next 18 months, I was challenged and forced to answer tough questions about my leadership abilities and to work on action plans to help improve them. I learned so many theories and concepts that at times I was overwhelmed. To retain the knowledge, I had to create action plans and track my progress.
I was challenged and quitting crossed my mind, but I forced myself to continue and stayed persistent. Working full time and going to school was never easy, but it forced me to operate outside my comfort zone.
As I moved along, I was able to apply what I learned; people around me noticed a difference in the way I operated and dealt with them. It was reassuring to see that my dedication and commitment was paying dividends.
After I graduated, I committed the rest of my time to focusing on talent development. I have to say that I overcame the lack of leadership abilities, but it was not easy. It took me a long time to make progress, but I’m definitely pleased with the result.
I have invested many hours in training people on personal growth and leadership development. More importantly I have invested many hours in coaching and mentoring.
My biggest lesson in this journey is that you can always fix what is not working as long as you’re willing to acknowledge that you are not good at it and are willing to invest the time to learn. More importantly, reading is only valuable if you retain the knowledge. It is best to apply any concepts learned and build upon it.
Hi, Will – thanks for yet another interesting and useful post.
Two things stick out for me:
1) The essential question of how each person will respond to challenges. I am reading World War Z right now, which is a fictional history of a world-changing virus outbreak told through interviews ten years after the initial events. The book is much different from the film which shares its name.
On of the many vignettes is about how some people, months and years after surviving the initial chaos, died in their sleep, rather than continue to face a much different and more dangerous world than what they had known. Interestingly enough, films about successful resistance to the viral outbreak were credited as stemming this tide of “quiet suicide by surrender”.
I think this is a graphic image of what you highlight as an important question for us all: When faced with adversity, how will we react? Popular culture tells us to “tough it out”, “blow through”, or “survive and thrive”, but as usual, popular culture also oversimplifies the issues involved and the complexity of the problems.
2) Your description of your master’s work reminds me of something missing in much of my own formal education at that level. You appear to have been part of a cohort, so received the benefit of having a learning group of peers to accompany you on the journey. While this was part of the two doctoral programs I participated in, it was not part of either of the two masters programs which I completed.
Looking back, I wish I had made those journeys in the company of others, rather than as a lone students, sometimes intersecting with familiar faces and voices, but often all on my own.
Thanks for the thought-provoking start to my week:)