When I was finishing grad school by the end of 2010, like everyone that leaves school, I had to build a career.
Instead of getting a management traineeship, like most of my fellow business administration students did, I started a business.
That forced me to totally reinvent myself. As an employee or student, you’re used to people telling you what to do. But as an entrepreneur, you’re the one who gives the orders and executes them.
Every year, I kept improving myself and acquiring new skills, one after the other. I learned how to build a website, write copy, and everything else you need to know to run your own business.
But after three years, I hit a ceiling. I never worked for a major company and I felt I needed that experience to become a better leader so I could grow my company.
No matter how old you are or what type of role you have in life, there are times you’re a follower, and there are times you’re a leader.
I don’t care whether you’re in high school or leading a firm with 500 people, some situations require leadership.
- When you get in trouble with your group or friends at school, there must be one person who takes ownership and apologizes.
- When your company has to deal with a huge setback, there must be people who lead the way toward growth.
- When your relationship with your partner is on the line, one of you must commit to improving it.
You see, when people talk and write about leadership, we often assume that you need a title to be a leader. “A CEO or president, that’s a leader,” is what most of us falsely assume.
These two lessons are true for every person who wants a long, happy, and satisfying career.
But it’s very hard to put that advice into practice. It took me the first six years of my career to figure that out. And I still have to remind myself that life is bigger than work.
Almost everywhere that I’ve worked in the past, there was a “perception is reality” culture.
That means looks are more important than reality. In other words: The person who’s in the office the longest appears to be the hardest worker. Now, that may be true.