5 Ways to Survive Leadership

Photo by Joshua Hibbert on Unsplash

Surviving leadership comes down to a number of factors:

  • how you invest in yourself
  • who you surround yourself with
  • who you decide to listen to
  • delivering on what you say you’ll do
  • defining what success looks like

We’ll start at the bottom of this list and work our way up.

Define success.

Surviving leadership means that you have the privilege to lead for another day. If I ask 100 leaders what success is, most likely, I’ll get back 100 different answers.

What matters most is how you define success.

Paint a picture that is so vivid that when you reflect on success and communicate it to your team, there is no ambiguity as to how you are defining it.

Then work toward making that vision a reality, which brings me to my next point.

Deliver on what you say you’ll do.

Lance Secretan said, “Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet — thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing — consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust.”

Trust is key to being a successful leader. The cornerstone of trust is doing what you’ll say you’ll do.

If you live by that principle each day, you’ll do well as a leader.

Being consistent in your words and deeds matters as a leader. It also matters who has permission to offer you feedback when you are off base.

That’s why it matters who you decide to listen to.

Listen to a small group of people.

Brené Brown calls this her square sqaud.

To create your own square squad, take a 1″ by 1″ piece of paper — it is intentionally small — and write down all the names of people whose opinion matters to you.

Note: this list is tiny! That’s because everyone has opinion, but that doesn’t mean their opinion matters.

My square squad includes my wife, some colleagues who have known me for years (and I’ve given permission to give me tough feedback), and a few peers who are putting themselves out there, doing challenging work in public.

I don’t listen to anyone who isn’t on the same level or taking similar types of risks as me with their work and leadership.

People are everything to leadership success. That’s why it matters not only who you listen to, but who you surround yourself with.

Build a great team

My job as a leader is to dream a BIG dream and to communicate that vision clearly to an all star team I assemble. It’s not the leaders job to execute the vision. The leader creates it. The team makes it a reality.

The leader defines what success looks like, provides resources to the team, and provides feedback when necessary.

You can accomplish anything by building a great team and getting out of their way as they do the work.

Invest in yourself

Only leaders who invest in themselves are going to “survive” the inevitable ups and downs of challenging work.

A few ways I enjoy investing in myself:

  • Reading as much as I can.
  • Taking online courses (better if taught live and have a community component for accountability).
  • Hiring a one-on-one coach.
  • Joining a mastermind.
  • Going to in-person conferences.
  • Investing in retreats and intensives.

Host of the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast with over one million downloads 🚀