Leadership Advice to My Younger Self

Leadership advice to my younger self - Photo by Medienstürmer on Unsplash

Looking back at my younger self, I was a very ambitious leader. I wanted to get to the top and I avidly read many leadership books to figure out the secrets that would take me there. I must have figured a few things out because here I am giving leadership advice on a routine basis. So what leadership advice would I give to my younger self?

Don’t be overly ambitious

This might sound odd, why not strive to be the best you can be? In my case, I always wanted to do better and that led me to set overly optimistic goals. I also rarely said no. Not because I was a pleaser but more from the optimistic, exciting feeling of achieving more. Being a little more measured about what I said yes to and what I said no to would have served me very well.

Empower and engage the team around you

For a long time, I was a ‘me’ leader. I like to do things and my natural tendency is to jump in and start doing. I am also a learner, so doing something new was doubly appealing. It took me too long to realize my role wasn’t to do but to engage the people around me to ‘do’ instead, and be at their best. My role was to be the conductor of the orchestra instead of first trumpet.

Do your homework and challenge authority when you need to

Intel was an intellectually challenging place. Debates were common in meetings and the culture could be very combative and intimidating. This made it all the more important to develop a clear point of view and deep understanding to support it. Coming in to a debate well prepared would have been akin to putting on a suit of armor. This would have given me the confidence to understand other perspectives without feeling I had to defend my own. It would have been even more important with senior leadership.

Set boundaries, work isn’t the most important thing

The problem with being highly ambitious is it can take over and become the most important thing. I made the excuse of being the major earner in the family. I used it to carve out more time for work and less time for family. With better balance I would have showed up differently to my family and I would have been a better leader. Less stressed and more connected to the human side of the people around me.

What advice would you give your younger self?




Comments (3)

What an interesting and provocative post Andy! Personal historical reflection is always challenging. For me it illuminates the circular paradoxical nature of our relationship to time — I speculate that if you’d been able to actually give yourself that advice, and if you had in fact taken it, you wouldn’t be the person you are today, and your reflection would of course be different.

As for myself, the main advice I would like to have given (and followed) earlier would be to more firmly establish a regular and deep reflective practice, both alone and with others. I say this because from more than two decades of coaching leaders, and more than five decades of being a leader, it’s apparent to me that, regardless of our personal history and personality, almost all worthwhile leadership development is based on deeper/expanded self awareness. And regular reflection, both by oneself, and with a coach and/or trusted peer(s), is a surefire accelerator of self awareness.

I love how you write your comment, intellectually simulating yet practical. I would agree with you on your point of regular and deep reflective practice, both alone and with others. Thanks for sharing the main point that will make a big difference.

This is such an important point Phillip. As usual your comments are totally on point!

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