Although my role here at Solving IT is a ‘first’ in terms of being a formal member of the Senior Leadership Team, I have served in various roles throughout my education and professional career. I have learned many lessons in leadership over the years, but these two have stuck with me the most, and I apply them in my daily life.
Lesson 1: To get what we’ve never had, we must do what we’ve never done.
It seems so simple, but it is true. This is a lesson I learned as a senior in high school. I had been a part of a competitive team for all 4 years of high school, but our track record was completely bogus. We had never won a conference or regional title (ever!), let alone worked on advanced enough skills to secure a spot at the state-level competition.
So on a fall evening, right after the team was announced, the other seniors and I sat down with our coach to discuss our goals for the year:
- Add the highest scoring skill to our routine
- Win a conference title
- Win a regional title
- Attend the state competition (and place)
Most people would have looked at us and said YOU’RE NUTS and moved on, but not this time. We laid out all of the finite details of what we would need to do to get there – and put our personal barriers or fears aside to lead the rest of the team. All 4 of our goals were met – and this year the team celebrated their 10th consecutive conference title. (Note: tradition and “do what you’ve never done” are two different concepts).
Lesson 2: Go into a role or responsibility with the intent of leaving it better than you found it.
This one I learned during a semester-long volunteer project that benefitted several charitable organizations. In my interview for the position, I was asked why I wanted the role. My response could have been that I’m organized, attentive to detail, passionate about non-profit organizations, or any other of my qualifications. My response was simply, “I don’t want this to be AN event, I want it to be THE event.” To this day, I believe that is what got me the role.
From there, I spent my entire winter break sifting through the minimal documentation left by my predecessor, and laying out the week’s event agenda and what we needed to make it successful. I also looked at our previous years’ fundraising and determined the goal we had to beat. The team I worked with to pull all of this off was completely instrumental, but we had a clear vision from the beginning. We strove for excellence every step of the way and it paid off – quite literally – in the end.
In total, we raised about $280,000 for charity – an all-time high – and we left our successors with thorough and detailed recommendations on how to continue our success in years to come.
Since then, there have been many other lessons learned, but I have applied these two concepts of goal-setting and striving for excellence into every role or project I find myself on, which has led me to new goals and new achievements in the years since.