40 Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned in 40 Years

13202_6695Birthdays are a big deal at the Pierce house. Decade birthdays especially. I recently celebrated my 40th birthday by sampling several pies and speaking at a leadership conference. I shared with the attendees a few of the insights I had gained in my 40 years on the planet. One thing I know for sure, the older I get, the more I have to learn!

I love to share with leader friends like you the insights I’ve gained. The following are 40 leadership lessons I’ve learned in 40 years:

  1. The only successful, long-term leadership option is to lead from the strength of your soul. Leading out of your own strength is short-sighted and will only take you to the end of your resources. God’s supply is limitless.
  2. It’s ok to not always know the answers. There is no shame in saying, “I don’t know.” or “Let me look into it and get back to you this afternoon.”
  3. Cookie cutter leadership doesn’t cut it anymore. We lead best when we lead true: when we embrace our one-of-a-kind approach to leadership.
  4. Responsibility without authority is a recipe for disaster.
  5. Take care of your people and they will take care of your customers, clients or congregation.
  6. Margin in your calendar leads to margin in your mind for innovative thought.
  7. There is always time to pee. No matter how jam-packed your schedule is or how late you might be, there is always, always, always time to pee. Women leaders are the worst at taking care of their bladders.
  8. Decisions should be made with the end in mind. Will this help your team take a step toward or away from your goals? Dangling decisions clutter our minds and frustrate our teams. Make the call and move on it.
  9. In addition to multiple mentors, every leader needs a professional counselor on retainer. (I also highly recommend a leadership coach on standby, but I’m a little biased.)
  10. Approaching conflict in a healthy way takes discipline and practice, especially in the workplace. If you can’t get over what someone did to you, address it with them privately and then with a trusted advisor.
  11. Don’t take yourself so seriously. You may be the “Big Boss Lady” but you’re also the girl who had Hobbit feet while pregnant and dressed as Gilligan for a skit in front of 500 women. (No? Just me? Well, you get the idea.)
  12. Leaders can’t lead well on caffeine alone. Fuel your body each day with healthy foods, eight hours of sleep, fresh air, and exercise. A healthy body leads to healthy thinking which leads to healthy leading.
  13. Everything is negotiable. (Yes, I mean everything.)
  14. For leader moms with children living at home: summer never works exactly as you have it planned. Do your best and set your expectations accordingly to avoid the summer cycle of frustration.
  15. If you have children and you work full-time outside of your home, have full-time childcare. Patchwork, pieced together care for your kiddos is a logistics nightmare and an emotional drain. One loose string gets pulled and the whole thing falls apart.
  16. There is a 157% chance one of my boys will wake up with a fever on a day I have a packed schedule or speaking engagement. On big days, have a back-up childcare plan. And get OK with sometimes the only option that makes sense is rescheduling everything and staying home with your sick kiddo for snuggles and clean-up.
  17. Wherever you are, be fully present.
  18. Winning leaders take a coach approach to leadership. Instead of dishing out endless answers and solutions, ask questions to help your team discover another perspective.
  19. “Monday Chocolate” is a survival kit essential.
  20. Wins are worth celebrating. Big or small, momentous or mundane, throw a party and share your enthusiasm for your team.
  21. Leaders are readers.
  22. Avoiding what you’re afraid of is not a leadership strategy.
  23. There are pioneers in every industry and every organization, who paved the way for you to do what you do. Take every opportunity to thank them.
  24. Accept responsibility for your mistakes and sincerely apologize. Then, do what it takes to make it right with your client, team, or boss.
  25. Share the credit but not the blame.
  26. Clarity is one of the greatest gifts you can give your team. Clarity around vision and expectations empowers and inspires.
  27. Any message worth communicating is worth communicating well. Consider your audience: what are the best methods, timing, and wording for them?
  28. An extraordinary administrative assistant can make your work life work and your dreams come true. Her insight, partnership, and “How in the world did you do that?” skills can save your sanity and make you swear she is your fairy godmother. Or a guardian angel. Or a fairy angel.
  29. Timing may not be everything, but it’s a whole lot.
  30. Leadership requires recognizing what season you’re in and doing the work of that season. Stop harvesting when the season calls for preparing or planting when the season calls for harvesting. Even more important? Realizing when it’s time to switch crops.
  31. You are in charge of the culture you create. Whatever you encourage, allow, or overlook will become embedded into the DNA of your organization. Be intentional.
  32. Every leader needs a circle of peers: safe people outside your organization to process the hard inside your organization.
  33. Don’t hire people you aren’t excited about. Settling for a seat-filler backfires every time. Hire people you would get a kick out of working with.
  34. Firing someone is hard – no matter how necessary. Take careful notes, consult your HR rep and mentors, and conduct the difficult conversation with class and care. No matter what happens next – name calling, email campaigns, loss of friendship – be respectful and tight lipped.
  35. Your team and your leaders need you to speak up. Speak up about injustices, ideas, and inquisitive questions. Speak up with courage, confidence, and conviction.
  36. You can’t control what others say, think, or do about you. But you can control the ammunition you give them to fire at you.
  37. Negative people are toxic to your organization. Call people out on their passive aggressive behaviors, gossip swaps, and pessimistic remarks. Challenge them to change their approach or change their job.
  38. Early is on time. Being late indicates one of three things: 1) a blatant disrespect for others, 2) a time management issue, or 3) a passive-aggressive way of controlling the situation.
  39. Give generously of your time, resources, and ideas. Scarcity thinking sees every co-worker and industry leader as a competitive threat. Abundance thinking sees opportunity for collaboration at every turn.
  40. Leadership requires you to try something and fall on your face and get back up with humility and grace to try again. Fierce leaders realize what they’re doing is of immense importance, and that it just may not work. Yet.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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