The Leadership Journey: Becoming an Enlightened Leader (Part II)

Last month, we introduced you to the 12 lessons of the Leader’s journey.

Lesson II: Seek out role models and think big:
Successful leaders, whether their goal is to build a company from scratch or build a career as an executive at an existing organization, study those who have gone before them and learn from those earlier leaders. Study the careers of people who have achieved great things, both for insight and inspiration. Many psychologists argue that we limit our own success by setting our sights too low. In his book “The Magic of Thinking Big”, Dr. David J. Schwartz observes: “When you believe something is impossible, your mind goes to work for you to prove why. But, when you believe, really believe, something can be done, your mind goes to work for you and helps you to find the ways to do it.”

Leadership Action Step 2
Ask yourself: Who are my role models as leaders? Whose success would I most like to emulate—and what can I learn from their life and work?

Lesson III: Seek out mentors and coaching:
It is not enough to merely study role models. Jim Nicholson, a successful entrepreneur who has founded, grown and sold two medical device companies and is working on his third, is quick to point out that mentors played a huge part in his success. Nicholson started his first company in 1969 when he was a young engineer. It was not successful, but fortunately Nicholson learned a lot from the experience; he had underestimated the financial resources necessary to build a business. After his initial failure, Nicholson recognized that, in order to be successful at starting and growing businesses, he was going to have to find a mentor. His advice? “Find a mentor and stick to him like glue.” Nicholson learned that it was important to find a mentor who complemented his own skills – one who helped him avoid his blind spots. He latched on to a business lawyer who had great experience with founding companies and had a much better sense of the business aspects of running a company, something Nicholson needed to be successful as an entrepreneur. Nicholson went on to found three successful medical device companies, including Mitek, which produced an innovative technology used in diagnosing breast cancer. Mitek first went public in 1989 and then was sold to Johnson & Johnson for $128 million, giving the venture investors a return 15.6 times their original investment.

Of course, to benefit from mentoring relationships, we have to be open to being mentored. That means keeping our egos in check and being continuous learners. According to Gary Yukl, author of “Leadership in Organizations,” effective mentors will have some of the following characteristics. Good mentors, Yukl writes, will a) show concern for your development, b) help you identify skill deficiencies, c) provide you with helpful career advice, d) encourage you to attend relevant training courses, e) promote your reputation, and f) serve as a positive role model for you. As with many other things in life, a good deal of the success of the mentoring process will depend on the quality of our relationships with our mentors.

Leadership Action Step 3
Ask yourself: Do I have appropriate mentors for my current stage of leadership development? Where do I need mentoring or coaching? Who might help me?

Now ask yourself… Am I a Leader?

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