As business owners, we don’t always give our backgrounds enough credit for the type of leaders we become. The roles we filled in our early careers become the before, and our first leadership role becomes the after. Really, it’s not like that at all.
I, for one, can clearly see how all of the work I have done throughout my career has prepared me for what I do now and shaped how I lead. With a bit of self-reflection, I have no doubt that you, too, would be able to see this in your career. Upon my own self-reflection, here’s what I found to be the greatest takeaways from the journey that’s led me here.
Communication is Key
My first boss taught me that the key to great leadership is the ability to communicate. If you can bring across an idea, concept, or vision succinctly and impactfully, you can lead people.
My work in print and broadcast journalism and in publishing, as well as the books I’ve written, has helped me keenly hone my communication skills. After all, what is journalism if not the task of conveying information, in various forms, to the masses?
Working Solo Made Me Value the Team
The role that really stands out to me as having been impactful in my development as a leader is the work I did in broadcast journalism. I pioneered a financial news and analysis show called Money For Nothing (inspired by the Dire Straits song) at RTHK Radio Three Hong Kong, and I did it on my own.
I was the producer, journalist, reporter and, subsequently, the anchor for the show, and that was hard work – especially considering I came from print journalism and knew very little about the broadcast medium. Beyond this, I pioneered a story and culture magazine show called Asian Threads, a first for Radio Three’s weekend programming.
My shows ended up winning awards, and I now see how creating them from scratch entirely by myself and having to fill so many roles made me see the value of a team. As a leader, because of that experience, I am not a micromanager. I’m really happy to recruit, groom, and help team members grow, then just let them do what they do well.
Investigative Journalism and Empathy
I covered a story in my broadcast journalism career that really strengthened a critical leadership skill – empathy. It was a journalism project that investigated child sex trafficking in Cambodia, and I don’t think I need to tell you how difficult the subject matter was to delve into.
As a mother myself, seeing children in this desperate situation where they were being abused and exploited because the local laws didn’t protect them was just devastating. I will admit that I became emotionally attached to that story, and as much as that seemed like a hurdle at the time, I can now see how it actually improved my coverage of the story.
In hindsight, I can see that allowing empathy to leak into my work in that situation also prepared me for doing so as a leader. It helped me understand that empathy is a strength, not a weakness. It is no secret that the ability to be empathetic with your team is a vital leadership skill, and my time in Cambodia definitely gave me that.
Helping Leaders Figure Out Their Style
In acknowledging how my entire journey has played a role in developing my own leadership style, I now work to help others understand who they are as leaders.
It is clear to me that most people think they need to become something else in order to be great leaders when, really, it’s about figuring out your innate skills and then using those to find your own leadership style.
In my workshops, I help leaders determine their personal mind-body type so they can step into the leadership role that is already within them. I really want the leaders I train to understand that they don’t have to be just one type of leader.
Yes, there are certain skills that are critical to all effective leadership, but you can embrace all of that and create your own unique brand of leadership, too.
Embrace the Journey
It doesn’t matter whether you are just starting your career or already in a leadership role – hindsight is a beautiful thing. This process of realization and embracing has, without a doubt, been beneficial to me, my team, and those I train in leadership on a daily basis. By recognizing how every part of your journey has contributed to the leader you are (or the one you are becoming), you can start to embrace your full potential and find even greater success in whatever you find yourself setting out to do.