By Linda Fisher Thornton
I’ve been blogging for 12 years, after making a very rocky start on March 5, 2009. If I had let my early failures determine my future, I would never have made it to this point celebrating 600 posts on the Leading in Context Blog. Today I’m sharing 10 Leadership Lessons I’ve learned since starting this blog in the hopes that they will inspire you to press forward in your important work.
To sum up the experience so far, it’s been a wild, up-and-down ride. I’ve hesitated, made excuses, written anyway, made mistakes, felt discouraged, gotten back up, and tried again. But the most important thing that has happened over more than a decade is that I think I’ve begun to make a difference.
10 Leadership Lessons Learned
Lesson 1: Have the Courage to Question (150th Post)
Don’t be satisfied with “less than great” answers to important questions. Dig deeper. Learn more. Find out if other people are concerned too. Imagine how finding a clearer solution could be transformational.
Lesson 2: Get off of AutoPilot and Take the First Step (150th Post)
Overcoming inertia is one of the toughest challenges. Just take one small step toward filling the need you’ve identified. Get started. See where it takes you.
Lesson 3: Believe You Can Make a Difference (200th Post)
It’s easy to believe the nagging voices in your head saying “You’re not qualified, or “You’re not the right person to do this.” Change your narrative. Lean into the possibility that you just might be able to move the needle on something that would matter to other people.
Lesson 4: Lurch Toward Your Goal and Hold On For the Ride (200th Post)
The movements you’ll make will feel like 3 steps forward, 2 steps back at times. Don’t get discouraged. Take a longer term, higher level view of your overall impact.
Lesson 5: Realize That Growth is Uncomfortable But Worth It (250th Post)
Yes, the impact of your work can be powerful, but your own human growth can be even more transformative. Since human brains are wired to value comfort and ease, do the constant “inner work” telling yourself that growth is worth it.
Lesson 6: Fill the Gap That Calls to You (300th Post)
I didn’t use to believe that everyone had a calling. Now I do. It turns out that great thinkers throughout time believed this, but we seem to have forgotten. Something calls to each of us. Hear it, and answer, to fill that gap that only you can fill.
Lesson 7: Strive For Meaning Not Perfection (400th Post)
This was one of my greatest challenges (since I’m a reformed perfectionist). Learn to embrace mistakes and use them to get better. Look for the lesson to take away from each mistake or failure that can lead you to greater success.
Lesson 8: Never Expect It to Get Easier (450th Post)
I wish someone had told me when I was young that life doesn’t tend to get easier along the way. I thought it would, and eventually had to realize that it was my ability to grow through my challenges that would make it easier, not the circumstances I faced getting easier. Focus on getting better instead of expecting things to get easier.
Lesson 9: Be Ready to Make Mistakes and Keep On Going (Oops – I forgot to celebrate my 550th post during COVID-19)
It helps to have a level of detachment from your work so that you don’t tie up your happiness in things being exactly a certain way or not ever making mistakes. Admit mistakes. It’s part of being human and it helps others trust you more when you don’t pretend to be perfect.
Lesson 10: Realize That Many Small Contributions Add Up to a Life’s Work (500th Post)
After applying the other 9 Lessons, I learned that persistence is really the thing that leads to making the greatest difference in the long run. Do enough small things, and that builds momentum, and adds up to a bigger contribution.
Difference-making doesn’t just happen in big moments. It’s in the thousands of small impacts you have on individual people who learn from your perspective and then go on to influence their organizations, friends and families. Each encounter generates a positive ripple. All of the positive ripples you generate slowly build momentum over time.
I hope these 10 Life Lessons learned on my journey can help you as you pursue your life’s work. We all have capabilities we can tap into to make a positive difference in our communities and our world – even though we’re all too busy, feel uncomfortable stepping out of our comfort zones, and don’t know how to start.
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