Learning to lead is tough. But within that difficult practice is the opportunity to confront the various aspects of ourselves that have held us back from realizing our full human, potential. You can’t avoid facing your own baggage and learning from your mistakes (nor should you want to) on the path to leadership. Each of these trials brings us closer to becoming that leader we so desperately want to be.
Along the path towards leadership, your outlook on work will change too. When we are young, we view work as something we have to do. We work because we strive for some kind of perfect illusion, and we stop at nothing to prove to ourselves and others who and what we are.
When we grow up, we work because it is as ingrained in our sense of self as much as breathing. The very definition of work changes: it becomes the process of thinking, communicating, and interacting with the world around us. Work becomes life and life becomes work without a clear separation between the two.
A young leader is full of hope and energy, but will also make a number of mistakes, because he or she is not yet grown. While detrimental at the time, those mistakes are what gives a person roots to grow and change. The confidence to make decisions without striving to prove something is, in itself, freedom. That can only come once we are grown. Or, I should say, once we have grown because the process of growing up is never (thankfully) complete.
The beauty of growth is that we never stop growing. We may make fewer mistakes as we learn to lead based on experience, but we still make mistakes. A great leader, however, is one who is comfortable with who they are and allows life to happen. There is no stopping the passage of time, but that time passing is the precise element that leads to growth and change.
The best leaders I have ever seen are those who have taken the time to figure out who they really are. When you know yourself (along with your capabilities and limits), you can securely sit back and delegate or counsel. Ego tends to leave the room when confidence strolls in.
When we fail to look at our own baggage and do the work necessary to understand our purpose and where we are coming from, we stand in the way of personal growth. More so, failing to grow prevents people and organizations from growing. You cannot be a strong leader unless you allow yourself to grow, and this can only happen by leading a life examined.
You cannot start on the path toward great leadership without growing up along the way. You can still lead without growing, but the result will be frustrated team members and an organization that never fully reaches its potential. The good news is that you can always make the conscious choice to begin to grow by taking the time to turn inward. You can always change the way you lead and begin building a better you. I’ve never seen a leader who has taken the time to turn inward look back with regret.
Successful leadership means taking your seat and being completely open to anything that crosses your path. Taking your seat leads to equanimity. Once you sit still, you will be able to see all of the possibilities before you and command your own life instead of letting life to command you.
Originally published on Quora.