My understanding of leadership has changed in a number of ways. The first is how I thought of leadership as an active quest of achievement. “Achieving” in checking off the daily to-do list, hitting major milestones (on time), and watching my team do so as well. Working with my leadership coach, I’ve learned that success, while it’s nice, should not be the only thing I think about my leadership. Leadership is about the process, the change, the growth, and failures. This is something I’ve been struggling with because I always thought success showed how I could lead. Instead, the constant pressure and emphasis on succeeding has led to my burnout, which has been one of the areas I’ve been working on throughout the fellowship. It also helped take off some of the pressure. Leaders do not have to be perfect or “on” all the time. Leadership isn’t defined by what a person can produce. I have to keep telling myself this because I still stress about if I don’t achieve certain things.
Another way my understanding of my leadership has changed is the working through generational trauma. After going to South Korea this past fall, the first time in decades, with my parents, I’ve noticed patterns in how we process happiness, stress, and grief. What I saw in how my grandmother reacted mirrored the way I reacted and processed things. Things that made me uncomfortable but something I was unable to identify came to light. I never thought that working on these very personal things were necessary to grow as a leader. It always felt selfish maybe even indulging in that millennial/gen-z “entitlement” I always rolled my eyes at in order to be perceived as a “serious leader.” My leadership starts with me, which means addressing me.
The last thing I’ve learned about my leadership journey is the appreciate the small things. The small wins, the small steps, the little revelations. As I mentioned before, much of my leadership focused on success, which also included only celebrating the “big.” By appreciating the small things, I feel I am able to stay present in the work I do, and not feel so anxious for the future.