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Ask A Boss: The Truth Behind Strong Leadership

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Last week, I was walking down the street with a colleague when I saw a guy in a t-shirt that said, “I’m a boss.” I assumed that the shirt was a reference to the Rick Ross song by a similar name, but I whispered to her, “…I want the shirt, but it has a typo. I’m not ‘a’ boss, I’m the boss.” We both giggled.

The truth is, despite the laughter, I am a non-profit executive, and yes even though my dad taught me to never call myself the “b-word,” it’s true. I’m a boss. And yes, I’m also a millennial.

Based on everything I’ve read in the past few years in the mainstream media, millennials are simultaneously the most amazing and terrible generation in history. Any attempt to understand us as a group often, like most efforts to characterize a single group with monolithic descriptors, comes up short. The public narratives about millennial in the work place are not especially flattering, yet I know some great millennial leaders who are successfully managing teams in a variety of sectors.

The truth about leadership is that it’s a gift. It is an honored opportunity to lead a group of committed individuals to a collective success. Being in a leadership role for the last few years has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my work life and has provided me access to some key leadership truths:

It’s mostly about listening

To your team, mentors, supervisor, the data, and your heart. The ability to hear what’s spoken and unspoken and know how to unpack it, in context and with intention, can be learned as a tool kit, but the expert application takes years. The health and effectiveness of your team depends upon your ability to read, understand, and nurture the group.

It requires courage

When you’re leading a team, you are the growing edge. You are the front line pioneer and you must get comfortable with confronting fear. When you are accountable for a series of results, there is no place for you to go, but forward. Through hard conversations and difficult situations, maintaining your momentum and staying in stride comes down to a commitment to boldness and the establishment of the supports necessary for you to lead in the way you dream of.

Your humanity is an asset

There is a great leadership book called, First Break All the Rules and to paraphrase a few lessons from that book that I consider the three golden rules to ensure your team excels.

  1. Make sure everyone knows what their role is.
  2. Provide each team member the tools to succeed in their role.
  3. Engage with your teammates and be clear that you care about them as people.

Compassion, authenticity and integrity are core assets in accomplished leaders and when I think back on all the mentors and supervisors that I’ve had, they are the ones that made the difference between a job I loved and I job I left.

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