MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time? is written by Kathy Collins, H&R Block chief marketing officer.
It’s easy to get swept away in the daily shuffle of our responsibilities. But when you’re starting out in a leadership position, it’s important to take a step back and keep your eyes on the bigger picture. Here are my top four tips for those who wish to lead:
- Be yourself. Leaders become leaders by being true to who they are. Don’t aspire to fit into a corporate mold. You’ve clearly done something right, so be yourself! Look inward first. Keep moving toward that vision. Eleanor Roosevelt – who never struck me as being all that funny – once said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.”
- Have a vision. Leadership is not a privilege - it's something that has to be earned. Becoming a leader means others believe in you and you have the opportunity and the obligation to make a difference. Whether that difference is personal or professional, the most important aspect of leadership is having a vision. Build a vision for where you want to be and how you want to get there. Share that vision, and inspire those that you want to take along. Bring them with you, and whatever you do – don’t worry about those who don’t follow.
- Take risks. Understand that you will fail now and then so stop trying to be perfect. Give yourself a break and laugh at yourself. Everyone will fail, but it’s how you move on from that failure that defines and builds your character – and your career. A favorite leader of mine – H&R Block President and CEO Bill Cobb – reminds me on a daily basis that “risk is our friend,” and chides us for “wringing our hands.”
- Practice humility. The best leaders throughout my career have been the ones who are both passionate and humble. They never stop learning, and never pretend to be the smartest one in the room. A former CEO I worked for carried a tablet and took notes in every meeting, which was clearly the responsibility of someone at a lower level. When asked about it, he said, “This is how I learned in school, and this is still how I learn today.” (Personally, I was flattered to think that our CEO was studying my work in his spare time).
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