Several years ago, I was at an event in New York City to collect an award for leadership and innovation. The night was full of glitter, red carpets, and champagne, in a beautiful room with a view of Times Square, but more than anything else that night, I found myself reflecting, thinking about my journey and evolution as a leader.
I often reflect on the journey now. I think about how I have grown. Here are the five lessons that are the biggest for me.
1. It all happens for a reason
I want to stress this: You must teach yourself how to see the events in your life as lessons, not merely as blessings or curses. Everything--every success, every failure--has its purpose, whether you can see it immediately or not. Some of the best lessons I've ever learned came long after an event took place, and had I not been willing and able to recognize them, I might not be where I am today.
2. To keep a level head is a virtue
There were plenty of times when I was more than ready to throw in the towel. After all, being a leader is a big responsibility, and setbacks can be incredibly frustrating--and, at first, I wasn't able to accept defeat. I got frustrated instead, losing my cool at the first sign of failure.
But I learned to keep in mind that there is a solution to everything, and that every event, good or bad, has a beneficial lesson attached. So, knowing these things, I am able to collect my thoughts, find the underlying issues causing the problems, and nip them in the bud. Eventually, my irritation and angst subsided, and I gained more confidence in my leadership capabilities with every solved issue.
3. Everyone makes mistakes
I used to be afraid of my inability to be perfect. But I became more comfortable in my skin, knowing mistakes are normal, even necessary. This realization that I didn't have to be flawless has made it a lot easier for me to step up into leadership roles. I value those who serve under me, seeing their mistakes as mirrors of my own. Over time, my perspective flipped. Instead of instantly feeling defeated and shutting down after a mistake, I now keep after it until I get it right. Eventually, I was able to channel my respect for imperfection into a self-perpetuating system of groundbreaking trial, acceptable error, and noticeable optimization.
4. Time and humility are co-founders of success
Getting to where I wanted in my life and career did not happen overnight. It took hard work, patience, determination, and vision--and it took a long time. I was a follower for longer than I was a leader, but I used that time wisely to gobble up as many lessons as I could. And I know now that being a leader sometimes means taking the back seat so that others can lead. Some of my best discoveries were made when I allowed others to take on leadership roles.
5. Keep an open mind
If we as leaders don't keep an open mind, we shut out the possibility of growth. For me, learning to listen and be present for people has helped form relationships that have made the difference in my business.
I have humbled myself to the fact that I cannot make miracles happen instantly, and that I will have more success as a leader if I collaborate with others, stay humble, maintain calm, and learn from mistakes.
What lessons have you learned along the way?