Leadership is a Journey, Not a Destination


Published: 01 February 2017

This is my personal story combined with my thoughts on the leadership lessons I have learned from some amazing leaders and some not-so-great managers I have worked with. I have to say that most people I have worked with are not all great and not all bad; they each have skills and behaviours that I have learned from.

What I look for in a leader has evolved as I have evolved and grown in my own leadership journey.

My Nursing Journey Began in 1982

I began my nursing journey as a hospital trainee. I now compare my training to being an apprentice and learning on the job while getting paid a minimal wage. During those early years, I developed ideas about what it meant to be a leader. I probably didn’t realise it at the time.

Who Was Your Most Memorable Manager?

For me, one in particular still sticks in my mind.

She was quite an authority figure and I would say I was quite scared of her. What I remember most was the way I always knew what she expected – there was no second guessing. I knew the standard she expected of me and I complied.

Needless to say, the ward ran very well and the patients received excellent care. She knew her standards and so did I.

The other thing I most admired about working with her was how she went out of her way to educate the nurses.

If there was something happening, she would find us and discuss the situation and challenge us to have a go. She had a lot of information in her head and she was always willing to share it.

What I think now is: she didn’t see knowledge as power – she saw it as a tool.

leadership is a journey

The next person that influenced me was many years later.

I was stepping into more senior roles. This person had some good management skills that have stayed with me and served me well. But, I never saw them as a leader.

I found them insecure and because of this, they could come across as a bully.

Many staff were intimidated, and this particular person liked it that way as that is how they perceived power. They would ask people to do things but weren’t prepared to do them themselves.

There was very little trust and transparency, which I now believe were the insecurities showing through.

I think the greatest gift a manager can give to their team is to show their own vulnerability and admit that they don’t know everything.

What I love and respect in leaders now, is when they are prepared to say when they don’t know, and when they acknowledge and champion their team for a job well done.

Leadership is Not Connected to a Position or Title

Just because you are a manager or in charge of a facility, doesn’t mean you are a leader.

Leadership is comprised of a set of behaviours and skills, not a title. Some of these behaviours are: courage, determination, trust, empathy, support, willingness to have a go, and presence, to name a few.

Presence was the big one here that I was missing.

This is when I learned about passion and being present, no matter what you are doing. This has served me well in many relationships and conversations that I have had.

How many of us have been involved in a conversation and the other person is clearly not listening or interested?

Think back: how does it make you feel? Unimportant, not valued or worthless?

Try this one: next time you have a conversation with anyone, focus only on them. Listen, and I mean really listen. You will be surprised how much more you learn and how the person you are talking to responds.

Then I Was Inspired.

I worked with someone who was willing to have a go, make quick decisions and was passionate and enthusiastic. This was the person who told me to stretch and trust in my own decisions.

This person gave me permission not to agree with them (I found this both refreshing and confronting at the same time).

They also pushed me to move on from what had happened in the past and look to the future. This is where I learned about visionary leadership.

Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t perfect (who is?), but I learned so much from them. Sometimes I felt like my head was spinning as there was so much change and so much going on. I coped with that because they also brought a feeling of fun to the situation (and that was important to me).

Then I worked with someone who was the polar opposite of me. This was challenging at the time, and this is where I really grew up. This was a lesson in gratitude and self-reflection. I learned a lot about myself.

During this time, I attended two days of training to become an Extended DISC Behavioural Profiler. I had no idea how much I would learn about myself and others, both personally and professionally, when I had my own profile done.

I chose to share my EDISC profile with my boss at the time.

We were about as opposite on the profile as two people could be.

This is where I learned about different decision-making styles and what certain profiles needed before they made decisions. We frustrated each other as we made decisions in an entirely different way.

So my next leadership lesson I learned was don’t judge and don’t expect everyone to behave as you do. We are all different and that is a good thing.

And to finish in the words of Simon Sinek, “Leaders focus on the success of the people around them.”

So it is actually never about you, it is about everyone else.

I hope you enjoyed my journey so far. It is by no means over, and I plan to stay a ‘student’ of leadership for a very long time.

“Great leaders don’t set out to be leaders…….. they set out to make a difference”

(Author Unknown)