One of the great joys of the work I do is I get to watch the leaders of our portfolio companies grow over time.
I’ve had a number of moments over the last few months where I got off a call or a meeting and thought to myself “wow, she’s a new person.”
Growing as a leader takes time, mistakes, failure, feedback, and a lot of work. You don’t magically show up as the CEO and you are good to go. It’s not like that at all. The authority to make the final call doesn’t mean that you are good at it and that people will line up behind your decisions.
It is a process and like all processes, it requires time and patience. But for those who are committed to personal growth, there is a path.
Two syndromes I see quite frequently are “deer in the headlights” and “I’ve got this.” They are both tell tale signs of a leader who isn’t there yet.
Deer in the headlights is pretty obvious to everyone. The leader just doesn’t seem steady and solid. You can see it in their eyes. I like to provide a leader with deer in the headlights syndrome a lot of support, advice, and constructive feedback. I have seen people go from deers in a headlight to strong decisive leaders in less than a year. It helps to have a gauntlet or two to have to run through. The greater the challenges the deer in the headlight faces, the more quickly they can emerge as a strong leader.
“I’ve got this” is more problematic. The leader acts like they know what they are doing, but they don’t. And everyone around them knows it except them. I like to provide a leader with “I’ve got this” syndrome with a lot of tough love but that is usually not enough. The answer to “I’ve got this” is usually failure of some sort, often a very significant one. The key is to be there for the failing leader in that moment and help them get through the failure and come out of it with self awareness and a desire to address the issues that have gotten in the way.
These are just two of the immature leader syndromes, but they are two very common ones I have seen.
I believe that most people have the capacity to be leaders if they want that for themselves. I also believe that leadership is a skill that you never stop learning. And I believe that it requires self awareness, courage, and deep empathy.
Sitting at a table and watching a skilled leader work is quite a sight to see. And watching someone grow into that person is one of the great joys of my work.