There is no teacher quite like experience and having been a leader for most of my career – I have learned a lot!  After many amazing opportunities, big wins, and a few missteps along the way, here are the five most impactful leadership lessons I’ve learned.

Lesson 1: You don’t always (and shouldn’t) have to know all the answers. What is more important is that you know how to find the answer, how to ask good questions and how to be creative and curious. I enjoy work the most when I’m surrounded by people that I can learn from and that I can collaborate with. Another benefit is that in demonstrating vulnerability by not always having the answer, psychological safety is built within your team.

Lesson 2: How is more important than what. There have been many times in my career when I have had to make tough business decisions – many of these decisions were hard and they weighed heavy. During these times I did my best to lead with empathy and kindness and I didn’t hide away but rather stood in front of the decisions. The “how” of what you do is more important than the “what”. The “how” demonstrates your character as a leader.

Lesson 3: You need to have difficult conversations. We owe it to ourselves and the people we work with to be direct and candid in our communication. Direct communication promotes a culture of accountability and having difficult conversations can strengthen the trust and respect within a team leading to a more resilient organization. 

Lesson 4: Utilize your strengths and bolster your weaknesses. No one person is good at everything so be OK with acknowledging where you need to bolster your team. Confident leaders know that they are stronger when they are surrounded by people who have different strengths than them – and they are OK with it. I am fortunate to have led some amazing leadership teams and almost everyone brought a skill or experience that I didn’t have and I brought a skill or experience that they didn’t have. This combination is powerful.

Lesson 5: “Bad” things can happen to good leaders. Sometimes, despite our best intentions as a leader, something can go wrong. A project falls off the rails and costs the company money, you make the wrong hiring decision and it slows down your progress, or you move into a role and it was the wrong fit. We all have examples. I have learned from my own experiences that every misstep was an opportunity to grow — even when it may not have felt like it in the moment. Every situation made me a stronger professional and not one of those situations defined me as a leader. We don’t learn and grow when all is going well but rather it is the difficult times that propel us forward.

I have many other lessons to share, but I will leave some for another day. I’d love to hear some of your lessons!

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