A perspective on leadership
(as a first-time manager)
I’m sure I am not alone in saying that 2020, more than any other, was a rollercoaster ride of one challenge after another. It was also my first year as a production manager and while the first year as a manager/leader is daunting enough, in 2020, it turned out to be a real baptism of fire. I have no doubt however, that I grew more as a leader this year than I would’ve, had things been “normal”. These are the three lessons I am taking from the experience.
Doing and managing the doing are two different things
The first lesson I learned was that I needed to change my mindset. It took a while for me to understand on a fundamental level, that the nature of what was expected of me had changed. Before becoming a manager, working hard was centred around the creation of a body of work; being directly responsible for the production of a thing and the “doing” needed to make it happen. What I needed to understand and accept was that while I am now ultimately responsible for the production of the ‘thing’, I am no longer the doer. It was a hard lesson to learn, and one I find myself being conscious of still, lest I slip into old habits.
Even managers make mistakes
The second thought I would like to explore, isn’t so much a lesson, as it is a feeling. Stepping into this role feels heavy. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t feel the pressure – pressure to learn on the go in a very fast-paced environment; to do and say the right things; to not mess everything up; to live up to my own expectations; and to prove to those who don’t have high expectations that I can do this. There are days that I feel I can’t make a decision because I’m too worried about being wrong, sometimes to the point of indecision. This early on in my journey as a newly minted manager, I’m learning that I can’t let the pressure get in the way of me “failing forward”. Making mistakes is an important part of learning. If I am to get better at this, I must make the mistakes and have the humility to take responsibility for them. (Ok I lied, I guess this was a lesson after all.)
There is a limit to what one person can do
If we are speaking of lessons, I would be remiss to leave out the idea of capacity, or going beyond one’s limits. I sort of knew what I was getting myself into at the beginning of all this, so it’s not that I didn’t understand that there was a certain amount of stress involved, but living through it was a whole other thing, especially in Corona-season.
Last year was unpredictable at every turn and in every way, with pitfalls around every corner, but we’ve made it through each and every one of those obstacles. I am both in awe of and grateful for the people around me. Their capacity and grit is inspiring and I’m lucky to be in a space where I feel supported enough to explore beyond my boundaries and push through my own limits.
Ultimately, the biggest thing I am realising about leadership and management, is that the two are not the same thing. I may have the title of a manager, but being a leader is something entirely different. From where I am now, at the foot of the mountain, the path to being a leader is both the most daunting and the most exciting challenge I have faced. I have no idea how this will turn out in the end, but I for sure know that I am excited to find out.