Chapter 1

        Letting Go of the Past

 

            No matter what has or hasn’t happened in the past, today is a new day. You can begin again. Leadership mastery is truly a journey, not a destination. Growth that lasts always takes time.

            One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is focusing on the past. It happens in one of two ways: they may have achieved a great deal of success and erroneously believe that they’ve “arrived,” and therefore have nothing to learn, or they’ve made so many mistakes that they now feel hopeless that things will ever change. Both are wrong. Leaders should strive for a healthy balance between extremes.

            Without a doubt, it’s a fabulous feeling to succeed in what you do. Perhaps you’re a leader who has led your team to exceptional results. Perhaps you’re a non-profit leader who has a passionate and enthusiastic team of volunteers who diligently serve as the backbone of your organization. Whichever the case, it’s important to never get too comfortable, no matter how successful you are or have been.

I’m a firm believer that success can serve as a springboard for more success. Leaders are successful when they evaluate what has worked, and also find ways to continuously improve. Smart leaders do this, as they know there are no guarantees that success will last.

In most cases, success must be continuously earned. It doesn’t matter if you are Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, NBA superstar LeBron James, Wimbledon champ Serena Williams, or elite NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Enduring success comes to those who work for it. It doesn’t just miraculously happen to those who desire to be leaders in their respective professions.

            Unfortunately, many leaders spend a lot of time looking in the rear-view mirror of their lives. They think, Why did I do that? Why didn’t that work? Why did we lose so many key employees? Why did my business struggle for so long? I’ve done it, and more than likely, so have you.

I’ve made so many mistakes as an entrepreneur. It would be easy to hold my head down in a cloak of shame. However, I made a decision long ago that my mistakes would not define me. That’s too high of a price to pay. My past cannot cloud my present. And neither should yours.

We have to stay focused and “grow forward.” There is a reason rear-view mirrors are much smaller than windshields. Every time you get into a car, remember that fact. Transportation systems around the world would be absolute disasters if drivers only focused on what was behind them. Can you imagine?

A far better approach is to look back and determine lessons learned. There are always nuggets of wisdom. No matter who you are, you will make mistakes. We all do. It’s part of being human. However, instead of staying stuck in a pit of failure, regret, disappointment, and shame, it’s better that we learn the lesson(s) and move on. It’s hard to lead with a sense of conviction and purpose when mistakes from the past dog you. If that is the behavior you’re modeling, you can expect many of those you lead to follow suit. Remember, teams take cues from their leaders. Why shouldn’t they? That’s what leadership is all about. You set the standard.

            Sadly, there is an expectation that leaders be perfect. That’s too much pressure. Far too many leaders cave under the pressure of unrealistic expectations. Sometimes others pressure us. Other times, we pressure ourselves. A fear of failure immediately throws some leaders into a pit of despair when it happens. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a leader for six months or sixty years. You will make mistakes. I prefer to call them growth tools.

Think about how many of your mistakes actually made you a better person. If you have the right attitude, it can happen. The key is to let yourself off the hook for not knowing everything. Hindsight is always perfect. Late world-renowned poet and author Dr. Maya Angelou said, “We do the best we can with what we know, and when we know better, we do better.” Oh, how true that is. It is a very freeing insight. At any given moment, we do the best we can. No one ever sets out to make a mess of things. Okay, well maybe psycho/sociopaths do, but they are the exception. And you are neither of those, so it doesn’t apply!

            Allow me to speak straight to your soul for a moment. You have untapped leadership potential that needs to be maximized. That’s the purpose of this book. No matter what anyone has told you, you have what it takes to be a great leader. No matter who has rejected you, you have what it takes to be a great leader. No matter how many trials and tribulations you’ve experienced, you have what it takes to be a great leader. No matter how many times you’ve failed before, you have what it takes to be a great leader. No matter who has criticized you, you have what it takes to be a great leader. No matter how much experience you have or don’t have, you have what it takes to be a great leader. No matter how ashamed you are of your past, you have what it have what it takes to be a great leader. Believe me – you have what it takes to be a great leader!

 

All rights reserved by Rachelle Smith. © 2015  

 

 

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