One of the best ways to track your progress as a leader is to reflect on the lessons you’ve learned throughout your career. All of us can remember critical incidents that shaped us as leaders – times when we learned from a mistake, stepped up in a big way or had that a-ha moment that changed our leadership style. Leadership is a definitely a personal experience; the lessons you learn along the way may be common ones, but the specifics of each situation blend with other experiences to make your leadership story unique.
There is an easy way to document your lessons and build a story of your leadership journey all at the same time. Start with your first leadership role, when you first began to manage people. Write down the company, your job title, and the time frame you were in the role. Next, think back to that job – what was the most profound thing you learned about leadership from that experience? Write it down. Be brief – capture the essence of the lesson in a few simple words. Now, go on to your next role and repeat the process. When you’re done, you should have traced your entire career as a leader and recorded your lessons learned along the way.
Put your leadership journey on a power point slide (strive for 1 page!) or practice telling your story from memory, and you’re ready to share it with others. Sharing your leadership journey allows you to role model three powerful leadership tools at once – reflection, story-telling, and life-long learning. Take your audience through your career, and tell the stories that have molded your leadership philosophy. Stories make your lessons come alive and will cast you in a favorable light, as they generally involve you having made and learned from your mistakes. Share your journey with pride – these are lessons that made a profound impact on you, and they demonstrate that you’re open to learning from the lessons that lie ahead.
Try this exercise – trust me, you’ll use it again and again as you coach and mentor others. And you just may learn something about yourself!