As a leader, who are you becoming?

I was not a nice human when I was younger. I was angry, had a log (not a chip) on both shoulders, and was very quick to escalate a conversation. From controlled to crazy out of control. Highly emotional. I had zero emotional control, and I didn’t care. 

When I reflect on being a younger man, and the less nice human that I was, I could not have told you what my mission was. After a lot of personal and professional development work, I am now very clear on my purpose, and that is simply to leave people better than I found them. Simple, but a great driver of behaviour.  

Back then, I was a tradie, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. Everyone was like that. Or were they? There weren’t too many on my crew that had the lack of emotional control that I did. But I made it ok. Until one day it just got out of control. I had a massive stand up blue in the workshop, with the boilermaker on our shift. It was so uncool! Let’s just say that the language we used towards each other was colourful. 

My lovely wife remembers the conversation that evening, and it was about me baring my soul and being brutally honest about my lack of people skills. I don’t remember the exact words I used, but Mrs G remembers me saying that I was sick of not being able to get on with people, and that I was totally committed to changing my approach. And learning new skills. I just didn’t have great communication skills.  

But where to start in this elusive quest for better communication and connection with others. 

It started with study at Monash University, studying Engineering, and then a HR degree and post graduate Diploma at CQU. That’ll fix it, I thought. The study was useful, and so was the work that I was doing on trying to understand humans. Understanding others was about watching and listening. Looking and learning. What made people tick? And what made them crack? 

The journey has never stopped, and recently I completed a psychology degree. In saying that, the one qualification that was the best thing I ever studied was NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), and love it or loathe it, that program was an eye opener into the human species. And how we all connect. 

Having studied people for nearly 30 years (and now doing a PhD in behavioural science), I share with leaders some of the simple techniques that they can use to improve their leadership and their connection. Especially when they are under pressure, which is the hardest time to connect.  

Here are the three biggest lessons I have learnt about continuing to work on becoming the best human I can be (and failing plenty of times along the way).  

1. Be clear on who you want to be, or become 

If you are happy where you are, stay there. But if you would like to change something about how you behave, or who you are, decide what that new version of you looks like.  

Here is the challenge you will face – if I asked you what your life’s purpose is, you may or may not know that. 90% of the leaders that I ask this question to… freak out and can’t answer it. Which is cool. If you can answer it, you will be better placed to lean into behaviours that help you live your purpose. 

If you don’t know what you purpose is, the next best step is to understand how you would like to be remembered. That is generally an easier thing to get your head around. Do you want to be remembered for the person that lifted others, or that saw potential in others, or someone who was the toe-cutter or the Chief Twit (Elon sacking thousands, as a case in point). 

When it comes to being remembered, I think back to all of the stories people have shared with me about their poor leaders. Some of those people share stories from decades ago, and how they still remember how bad those leaders made them feel. Yes, people remember conversations that hurt them for 30 years and more. That is a long time… 

Leader action: When you know what your purpose is (preferred) or at least how you want to be remembered, you can become the person and the leader that achieves that purpose.  

2. You really do need to make it a priority 

Here is my next question for you, are you interested or are you committed in becoming the leader that you want to be? 

I see two types of leaders come through my programs. Type one went to university after leaving school. They move through their career, learning leadership on the job, spending three to five years at each level of the business, on their way to GM or CEO, and over time they become good leaders. Or not. Depending on the leaders that they are exposed to or the organisations that they join.  

Type two leaders that I come across are those that do what it takes to become who they want to. They get educated. They study humans. They stay in their leadership role for as long as it takes to master it. They know that it might take more than five years, or less, to develop the skills they need to progress their career. Some don’t want to progress their career, they are happy at the level they are at, and look for horizontal challenges not vertical ascendence.   

The thing that I know about leaders who become who they want to is that they are clear on their direction, and they do what it takes to get there. They sacrifice, they commit, and they dedicate themselves to the mission. 

Leader action: Don’t just be interested in becoming the leader you want to. Make it a priority and commit to it. Do something today to move you forward.  

3. Be comfortable with discomfort 

The challenge you will face as you go after what you want to achieve as a leader is that you will face trials and find yourself in uncomfortable situations. Which is part and parcel of the growth and the development process. 

This point reminds me of the great Australian world champion triathlete, @Chris McCormack. When Macca turned up to race at the Ironman World Championships in Kona for the very first time, he was asked by the media if he was ready for the race. He scoffed, and said, “Ready… I’m here to win.” Which most people thought was a bit cocky at the time. 

Macca couldn’t even finish that race. 

But he knew what he wanted to achieve, and over the next 10 years, turned himself into a three time Ironman World Champion, and one of Australia’s greatest ever triathletes. After all of that, Macca looked back over his career and wrote the  book “I’m Here to Win” to honour where he had come from in the very first race. 

In that book, Macca wrote a lot about being able to ‘embrace the suck’, in other words, being uncomfortable with discomfort. His theory is ‘the person that can hurt the most during the race will win.” Just like leaders who develop themselves. Getting out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself is part of the process. 

On the other side of discomfort comes growth. The more comfortable you can be with being challenged, the more you will develop your leadership skills. 

And the better you will learn to lead under pressure. 

Leader action: Actively seek out opportunities to stretch yourself and put yourself into positions or roles that challenge you and that stretch your current skill set. 

In summary, decide on who you want to become as a leader, commit to making the changes that will be required for you to get there, and find opportunities to get out of your comfort zone on the way to becoming that leader and that human. 

And could you please do me a favour, and share this with leaders everywhere? This is an important topic for leaders. 

Please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

If you would like to learn more about Anton or The Guinea Group, please click hereto book into Anton’s calendar, to:

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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