You will Attract who you are Becoming
Updated: Jan 9, 2019
As I am only a few weeks away from my 50th birthday, I can't believe how the time has flown. I know as a woman, we don't typically share our age. But, as most of us know, age is only a number, and with it comes experience, hopefully some wisdom, and more importantly an appreciation for life.
As we look back on our experiences, we realize that those experiences have helped shape us into the leader that we are today. As I reflect on my own experiences, there are some key lessons that I have learned and continue to pull from each and every day.
When I first graduated from college, I was fortunate to have had several job offers from which to choose from. Of those offers, I chose to work for Price Waterhouse, which was one of the "Big 6" accounting firms, in their small business audit division. After about 1.5 years on board, I was given the opportunity to work with the Partner-In-Charge and the Sr. Manager on the Mergers and Acquisition's team. This was a demanding position requiring significant travel, long days, and weekends. Yet, the experiences I gained in less than 4 years were more than most see in a career.
From there, I left and took a corporate position with a Fortune 500 company working with a talented pool of individuals who were like minded. After the firm decided to relocate out east, I took a short break to have my first child and worked for a local public accounting firm. I hated every minute of working for the local firm, because it was a complete culture shock from what I was used to. As soon as an opportunity arose, I went to work for a client that was recently acquired, and spent almost 10 years of my career there growing the business, experiencing the struggles of business, and developing as a leader.
When I started my career, I was a sponge. I wanted to learn everything I possibly could from the people around me. I tried to find mentors that could help me grow and learn, and with that I was given many opportunities. As I continued in my career, I continued to learn and observe various leaders. Based on those observations, I began defining leadership as what it wasn't, not what it was. In fact for me, it was everything that my one boss was not. It wasn't arrogant, it wasn't incompetent, it wasn't a friend to all, it wasn't conflict avoidant, and it wasn't self-centered or untruthful. Sometimes seeing behaviors in others that we don't like, has us truly reflect on and see our own flaws.
One motivating driver for me has and continues to be competence. In fact for many successful managers and leaders, competence is what got them to their initial level of success. But, competence alone doesn't allow you to move to that next level of leadership. In fact, it can be your achilles heel. The need to be competent can drive arrogance, because you always need to know the answer. Competence can drive fear of failure. Being wrong can be devastating, as it is your identity. And it goes without saying that humbleness is not in one's view, when competence is the sole driver.
We get places in our career because of what we know. We grow as a leader when we are able to let go of the need to have all of the answers. Our willingness to put ourselves in a position to learn from others, to be authentic in who we are, and to be focused not on what we can do, but how we can help others, is the sign of true leadership.
I just had lunch this past month with a couple of individuals in my network. It was one of the most stimulating and energizing conversations that I've had in a while. The conversation was centered on how each of us could best help our clients be more successful. Our focus was on the client, listening to their needs, and being a resource that provided assistance not just in what we could provide directly, but what we could bring to the table in terms of our own network of resources. The like mindedness of philosophies, of authenticity, and of willingness to learn from each other, was really engaging.
As I have grown in my leadership, I have learned that I attract who I am becoming. My definition of what leadership wasn't, has helped me define what leadership is. For me, once I began changing how I thought about my need for competence, I changed my own self-perception. Because now, I'm not what I do, but who I am. As a leader, there is nothing more freeing, more liberating, or more exhilarating than "being." Being who you are provides freedom to live to potential, to be authentic, and to have humility. Because without self-knowledge and understanding, one's leadership capabilities will be hamstrung by blind spots and slow growth. By understanding oneself, you can be open to new ideas, inquiry, and construction criticism, and that's the basis of great leaders!
Jayne McQuillan, CPA, MBA, CEPA is a strategic management consultant, and the owner of Journey Consulting, LLC, in Green Bay