Several years ago I was at a fancy dinner in New York to collect an award for leadership and innovation. The night was full of glitter, red carpets, champagne, limos and a beautiful room with a view of Times Square, but more than anything else that night, I found myself reflecting on my journey and evolution as a leader.
It took me a while for me to accept that I was not in complete control. Once I grasped that, though, I realized that I had more control than I had first believed.
Here are three of the most priceless lessons I’ve learned:
1. 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 made it a lot easier for me to step up into a leadership role. I was also able to value those who served under me, seeing their mistakes as mirrors of my own. My perspective flipped. Instead of instantly feeling defeated and shutting down, I restructured my approach until I got 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.
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 really is a solution to everything and that every event, good or bad, has a beneficial lesson attached. So, knowing these things, I was 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 problem.
3. Time and humility are co-founders of success
As much as I wanted it to, my success 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 backseat so that others can lead. In fact, some of my best discoveries were made when I allowed others to take on leadership roles.
I can now say, with confidence, that leadership is my calling. I know how to read people because I have been through hard times myself. I can stay calm in a crisis because I have learned how to sort out the details and fix the problem. Moreover, 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.
Why am I sharing these life lessons with you? Because that’s what a good leader does.