Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why you do something? I don’t mean why you brush your teeth twice a day—this is very important to your health and you should definitely do it every day, as recommended by medical professionals. (Speaking of, have you flossed yet today?)
But I digress. Think about the opportunities you have as a leader, whether in a formal role or not. Have you thought about why you make the choices that you do? How did you develop these ideas of what leadership looks like? Do you ever stop to think about how you could be a better leader?
Trust the process. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Maintain the status quo.
These are just a few phrases that you’ve probably heard your entire life. They are phrases that are used when leaders are unwilling to shake things up. It’s very easy to just keep doing things the way you’ve always done them. Those processes worked in the past, so why wouldn’t why they work now? What’s the harm of just sticking with what you know?
Change is scary. Opening yourself up to change requires you to accept that you might fail. Change asks you to be vulnerable and requires you to think of more than yourself. The act of change demands that you consider the viability of your future. When change doesn’t go as you planned, it can suck. I, for one, would really love for Apple to give me back my headphone jack. On the other hand, when change goes well, you could end up changing the face of how people consume music (thank you, iPod!)
Don’t get me wrong: tradition certainly has its place. But you shouldn’t allow it to stand in the way of allowing you to move forward as a leader. It is certainly possible to lead in a way that honors history while still being innovative and creating change. As with anything, balance is the key to success. Apple didn’t develop the iPod overnight. That process required a lot of thought, and definitely a lot of models. They had to figure out how to balance this incredible new technology with traditional methods of music consumption. Not every step forward will be as revolutionary as the iPod, but every step will require balance and compromise. Small steps forward can be just as impactful as the big ones. A lot of small compromises can lead to a systemic change in how you lead.
As a leader, the best way you can ensure that you aren’t remaining in the past is by surrounding yourself with people who will challenge you and support you. These people are probably different than you in some way. Surround yourself with a diverse group of people, and most importantly, listen to them. Listen to them when they ask you to reconsider something, or when they suggest a change. Work with them on finding the balance of tradition and change. Take their words to heart, and consider them carefully. This is the hard part. This is the part that makes you a good leader or not. It is not easy to have someone challenge your way of thinking, but it is necessary if you want to be a good leader.
If you’re not moving forward, you’re going backward. Leaders who remain in the past will get left behind. What kind of leader will you be?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brittany Booth is a graduate of Albion College where she received an undergraduate degree in Psychological Science, and Saint Louis University where she received her Master's degree in Student Affairs. Brittany currently serves as the Director of Chapter Services for Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity. She is a member of and current volunteer for Kappy Alpha Theta fraternity.
If you have any questions, you can reach her at Brittany@AKL.org.