Almost two years ago, I stumbled upon an opportunity. It was my life’s first job which I started a couple of months after closing my archviz commissions. Little did I know it would eventually put me through situations which I would never voluntarily sign up for.
Regardless of how the whole experience turned out, I am inexplicably grateful that I am going through something like this in a very early point of my life.
I dedicate this thread to anyone who wants to start or just started their leadership journey and particularly to anyone who is already in a leadership position without even realising it.
Job of a leader
As a leader, your job is to deal with problems nobody is willing to deal with.
And so, by definition, you will be dealing with problems that may not necessarily be exciting or fulfilling. There are no hard and fast rules on what needs to be done by a leader.
Every moment, you are supposed to look at the path ahead (and the present situation, ofc.) and decide, “How can I spend my time now so that I can create maximum impact?” Impact may not, in almost 90% of the cases, necessarily mean work that you individually contribute to.
Instead of from you it is almost always because of you kind of impact.
- It can be choosing to buy something instead of building it from scratch.
- It can be taking the first shabby step in a direction nobody is willing to.
- It can be talking to the stakeholders to scale back the scope.
- It can be having a tough conversation with a contractor/team member.
- It can be upskilling or motivating someone in your team.
- It can be hiring someone. It can be firing someone.
- It can be asking for help.
It can be ANYTHING. There is no job description.
You cannot not act
As a leader, there could be a million to one different things on your plate:
- things that you want to do
- things that your colleagues/team members expect you to do
- things that your boss wants you to do, etc.
to a point where it might feel very overwhelming and paralyzing.
There may be, and certainly will be, times when you might feel there is absolutely nothing that you can do to make the situation better.
In all such circumstances, look at the path ahead with all your ego valves closed.
There is point A which is where you are right now. And there is some point B in the future where things are hopefully better. And there is no guarantee that you will reach point B. So act on a best-effort basis.
Best-effort basis is the key here. There is no guarantee that you will achieve what you are planning to. But it is not an excuse to not do anything. You cannot not act.
Pick up things you believe will make a difference. And do pick them up voluntarily regardless of whether you like it or not. Especially when you know it’ll eventually come to your plate.
Whenever you are stuck, remember:
- Nobody really knows anything. This includes your direct reports and superiors.
- There are no hard and fast rules on what needs to be done. It’s up to you to decide.
- A lot of times people just want someone else to take the first step. Just break the inertia.
- If you have given your absolute best and nothing works out, scream for help as loud as you can.
Hence, a lot of what leadership is all about can be boiled down to a few simple things: dealing with uncertainty, doing what it takes, being willing to take the first step, persist and be the last one standing and ask for help when you have to.
It is SIMPLE but not EASY.
Ultimate goal of a leader
With all that in mind, the ultimate goal of a leader is to fire themselves someday and realise that they are no longer needed. If you can disappear and everything can take care of itself, as a leader you have done a great job. It may never happen. But it is the ideal we chase.
There’s one saying by one of the finest architects, that I keep reiterating to myself. I remember it to be something along these lines:
“Which ideal worth achieving has ever been achieved?”
If you can fire yourself someday and everything can still keep moving as always, I believe that is Leadership with a capital L.
Is leadership for everyone?
But, is leadership for everyone?
It invariably involves a lot of emotional labor, and quite frankly comes with uncomfortable levels of responsibility. It can be inherently a lonely place to be. But, it will be invaluable if you go through it at least once. Especially early in your life.
If you are a budding leader or if any this rings a bell with you, would love to hear your thoughts. 🙌🏼
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