4 Surprising Lessons for Emerging Leaders
July 20, 2015

4 Surprising Lessons for Emerging Leaders

by Brian de Haaff

Excellent leadership is like good health. Everyone wants to experience it. And if you are interested in reading about becoming a great leader, you have 150,000 titles to choose from on Amazon — take your pick. You can also take leadership courses, attend countless seminars, and earn an advanced degree to further your own chances.

These are all good things. But leadership is not learned on paper or in a classroom. Book knowledge is no substitute for what you learn in the daily practice of leading people: succeeding, failing, learning, falling back, making adjustments, and starting over.

Leadership is a continual growth process — not something you can check off a list and say ‘Done!’

Throughout my career, I have grown as a leader. I am humbled to work alongside great leaders every day at Aha! as the CEO. But every time the team reaches the next tier of growth, it’s easy to see that there is so much more to learn. The next phase of growth for every rapidly growing company is tougher than the previous one.

It is exciting to be in the business of building great products — there are surprising leadership skills needed at every turn. I have the awesome privilege to lead a great, hard-working team of people at Aha! as we build something really special, and I learn more from that experience all the time.

Every leader will have different strengths to call upon, as well as a different set of experiences that they bring to the job.

However, I have discovered four surprising lessons that every leader can apply to the role they are in:

Leading is a privilege Not everyone gets the opportunity to be a leader. So if you are given the chance to lead others, think about what an awesome responsibility you have before you. You are helping others to be great at what they do. That is an incredible privilege, and not one to be taken lightly.

“Trust me” are dangerous words A leadership role may be thrust upon you, but trust is not automatically part of the package. You might be “in charge” but have little to show for it. Trust can be difficult to earn and easy to lose. And “trust me” are words that should never be spoken. As you proceed with honesty and do what you say, people will learn that you are a person they can depend upon.

Sacrifice yourself Being a leader is not about taking all the glory. That means giving others credit when you may be the one who deserves it all, and taking the fall sometimes as well. In the process of building up others, you will also discover joy in watching them grow.

Lead differently Leaders who are not flexible rarely last long. In the course of your life you will be leading different types of people and constantly drawing on different leadership skills. Some people are easy to lead, and others may present leadership challenges. You will find that different situations may also call for different kinds of leadership finesse. You will need to be transparent and adaptable to change at all times.

The most important truth I have learned is that I am never done learning about leadership. The moment I think I have learned everything is the moment that I stop growing. I want to make sure that does not happen.

That is why every day I expect to learn something new, and I challenge myself to continually improve.

I hold myself accountable to being the best leader that I can possibly be. When you approach any management role with this mindset, you will lead your own team to greatness.

What leadership lessons have you learned so far?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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