The 3 Most Important Leadership Lessons I Learned in 2019

To be the leader your business, family and community needs, it’s important to understand where you can improve.

The end of the year is a great time to do this. Each December, I like to step back from the demands of my daily schedule, reflect on the year and give careful thought to my plans and goals for the new year.

This includes thinking about went well and, more importantly, looking at what went wrong and where I can learn from my mistakes.

Here are three vital lessons I learned about leadership in 2019 that might help your own growth in 2020.

Mind the climb

This year our company reached the end of our three-year strategic plan, which we called our Vivid Vision. As we progressed through the year, I was pleased with our progress and confident that we were going to hit our goals, so, logically, I began to focus on the next Vivid Vision for Acceleration Partners.

I didn’t realize the danger of this mindset until the summer, when I climbed the famous Grouse Mountain in Vancouver. The mountain is best known for a difficult trail called the “Grouse Grind,” which has a particularly treacherous final section of the climb before you reach the top.

After reaching the summit, exhausted and drenched, I realized the hike was a metaphor for the company’s progress as well. Though I was already focused on the next summit, our employees were completing the most difficult final stretch of the original plan and the summit was not yet in sight for them. Our perspectives were different.

As leaders, it’s our job to look ahead. But at the same time we need to remember that our team may be struggling with the toughest part of the ascent. When you reach that final quarter, be sure to remind your team of the goal they’re chasing, acknowledge their progress and give them the on-the-ground support they need to get there.

Pain and purpose are connected

While attending a mastermind dinner earlier this year, I met a talented sketch artist who the host had hired to document the discussion. She made a visual representation of the conversation with creativity and detail to give each attendee a unique reminder of the takeaways from the event.

I admired the artist’s work and asked her how she got into her career. She said, immediately, that her purpose was to, “allow people to feel seen and heard.” As it turned out, she had a stutter as a child and struggled to communicate until well into her teens. As a result, helping others communicate became her driving purpose in life.

This is instructive for anyone seeking a deeper or clearer purpose in their lives. Often, we are most driven to rectify the pain or adversity we’ve experienced previously, especially early in life.

Understanding and channeling purpose is crucial to being an effective leader. If you do not have a purpose in mind for your life, you may be doing things that ultimately don’t make you happy or fulfilled. If you want to do some deep thinking on your core purpose, start by thinking back on the most difficult challenges in your life. You may be able to turn that adversity into an asset, and be the person you needed when you were younger.

Say no

The more successful you are, the more demands you’ll have placed on your time. As somebody who enjoys helping others and pursuing new opportunities, I’ve had to learn that sometimes the best thing I can do in many cases is say no.

It’s not selfish to say no to something you don’t have time to do or that will take away from an existing priority. In 2018, psychology researchers Selin Malkoc and Gabriela Tonietto conducted a study on time management and the impact committing to more has on our outcomes. They found that people who take on more activities actually get less done, because they are unable to give proper attention to everything on their to-do list.

Saying yes to everything doesn’t do anybody any favors–it just overtaxes us and leads us to give less attention to our most important priorities.

When somebody asks you to do something new, be thoughtful. Ask yourself if the ask is a good use of your time and if it aligns to your highest priorities. Consider what you might have to give up by taking it on. And if you decide it’s not the right move, the best thing you can do is to respectfully say no.

As you finish 2019, it’s important to reflect on what you’ve achieved this year, consider what lessons you’ve learned, and carry that knowledge into next year. Also, make sure to share your learnings with others–you never know how the other person will benefit.

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