For Fearless Leaders, the Journey Never Stops
Truly fearless leaders don't work toward a final destination – they continuously look for new ways to learn and grow while on a journey that never ends.
If success really matters to you, then you won’t be content to stay where you are. There has to be growth and progress. You have to face your fears. This is what we usually mean when we talk about becoming a leader or being on a leadership journey.
But I have an issue with the word “journey” the way we use it for development. We tend to think of a journey as having a clear endpoint. So when we slap this word onto leadership, it gives the impression that there’s a final destination where you look a certain expected way, you’re fully mature, and you can always swim with the biggest fish.
In the real world, there’s never a true endpoint to the leadership journey. There’s never a final destination where you can nod your head and say you’re done or that you’re 100% sure you’re prepared for everything. You don’t know what you’re going to end up doing or looking like. The transformation never stops.
Preparedness doesn’t make you fearless. Learning in humility does.
Part of the problem with the way many people approach leadership is that so much of business teaches you to focus so hard on managing risk. Do you have to do this? Of course. But somewhere along the way, we get the message that if we just prepare enough, we’ll know how to solve everything. Preparedness becomes a way for us to deal with all the fear of loss, stress, and uncertainty.
To really be a fearless leader, you have to accept that you won’t always know how to solve everything. You have to admit that there are always going to be situations you didn’t foresee or that you don’t have the right information or resources to handle yet. That’s humility. But then you pick that humility up, commit to change, and let others teach and support you.
As an example, when I made my first global trip, my goal was to help my colleagues in the United Kingdom, Germany, and France deal with a growth issue. I had a great, well-thought-out plan for how to move them forward.
Because I thought I knew what to do, I dove right in. But what I hadn’t counted on was the cultural differences being so dramatic. My well-thought-out plan turned into “that’s not how we do it here.” That was a new problem I wasn’t prepared for and didn’t immediately know how to deal with.
In that situation, I suddenly doubted myself. I was afraid of failing. Fortunately, my friend John was along for the ride. He’d traveled the leadership road a little more than me. He helped me smooth out the conflict and communicate my plan better. And by the end of the trip, I’d learned something critical that I knew would help me as I led in the future. If I had just stubbornly acted as if I had nowhere to go in that moment, then I really would have failed.
With plenty of chances to learn, confidence only improves over time
Throughout your career, you can have dozens or even hundreds of these kinds of points where you can absorb insight. But you’re not meant to sit down, put your feet up, and pacify your ego in any of them. Instead, you’re simply meant to see how all those points interconnect and decide where you want to go next. And the more you travel the leadership path, the more comfortable you’ll get with being malleable, both as a leader and in your general life. Uncertainty will lose its bite, you’ll have more faith in your ability to adapt, and fearlessness will come more naturally.
So, hop on the train. It’s not going to stop, but the ride is beautiful.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor