If I Could Tell My Younger Self What I Know Now

Karen Porter

Wouldn’t you love the opportunity to go back and have coffee and a coaching session with your younger self?

For me, it would definitely start with a list of leadership don’ts, along with a little “you can do this” cheerleading. This personally tested experience would have served me well. I hope these tips inspire you to reframe your leadership perspective and avoid some of the pitfalls I’ve encountered.

1. Put a High Value on Quality Friendships

When I started in the corporate world, I focused on rising to the executive branch. Every day, I worked hard to help make one of the top manager’s job a little easier. And I followed through on every project doing excellent work so the manager would notice — and be impressed. Soon they came to me with new projects and sought my advice on the next steps. Eventually, management invited me into the strategy sessions and became a contributing member of the executive team — followed by promotions and additional responsibilities. I was part of the company planning and policy committees at the highest level. But one day I realized I had not made friends along the way. I ignored personal viewpoints and involvements. My goal was the top. And the top was lonely. If I started again, I would slow down and care about the people who worked around me and for me. I would find out about their family situations and get to know details about their lives. Relationships, especially friendships, are too valuable to let slip away.

Thomas Aquinas said, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

2. Watch Your Back.

Not everyone in life has good motives or kind intentions. So be careful when you confide in people who may use the information to betray or hurt you. Unfortunately, people are often pretenders. They laugh with you and hang around, but they are not your friend, and they only love you until the benefits of being your friend stop. How do you know the difference between a genuine friend and someone you should not befriend? Observe how they behave and what they say. Someone who will talk about others with you is sure to talk about you. If they gossip, it is only a matter of time until you are the subject of their tales. Do not reveal your deepest dreams or desires to anyone who will betray or lie or spread rumors.

As a leader, you may hear of people within your influence who are unhappy or have said something negative. At that moment, your best course of action is to go directly to that person and work it out.

I heard of a pastor who held the position of senior pastor for more than 35 years, and it was said there was never any trouble in the church. I asked how this could be true. The answer was that when he heard there was any glimmer of grumbling or complaining, he got into his car and went to the home of the person to address and solve the unhappy situation. Never let a problem grow because you refuse to talk about it. Face touchy situations immediately.

3. Stay Close to God.

You are a leader because you have talents, skills and qualities that make people want to follow you. When we’ve had success, it’s easy to believe in ourselves so much that we leave God out of the equation. You must spend time each day in Bible reading and prayer. Set a schedule for “soul” retreats — once a week for a few hours or once a quarter for a few days. These times will become your shelter when leading gets hard.

James 4:8 says, ‘Come close to God and God will come close to you ‘(NLT).

4. Delegate

One of your hardest roles as a leader is to delegate responsibility to someone else and then allow them to do their job without interference. I know it is hard because, like me, you probably think you could do it better.

If you are growing to grow a team, then let them make missteps or go at a task the harder way. They will become your strongest ally if you give them the latitude to serve the best way they know how.

5. Forgive

Once I was going to fire a person on my team. I had my boss’ permission and agreement. I called the person into my office, still fuming from the reports of her gossip around the office, which had stirred up trouble on several fronts. As she walked into the room, the Holy Spirit softened my heart and I said, “You have a job here as long as you need one.”

No one was more surprised at my words than I was as forgiveness flooded me. Forgiveness is your key to freedom.

Who do you need to forgive today?

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