Becoming a Leader is a Personal Journey

Think about a leader you know. Chances are he or she is a public figure, a known name, outgoing and used to the attention that comes from being a decision maker. Making high pressure presentations and decisions and steering a business to success are normal life. But becoming a leader, a good leader who people will follow because they want to not because they have to, doesn’t happen in front of the crowds or while running a multi-country conference call with investors. Becoming a leader happens in private moments, behind closed doors when you worry about the people you lead, the lives you affect and the trickle down of each decision you make. No one can hand you leadership skills. You have to personally own the development of you as a leader.  

Who do you think about? After a long day, you finally climb into bed physically exhausted. But your mind is still churning thinking about what happened today and what needs to be done tomorrow. Every successful business owner I have worked with has been awake at night thinking about their employees and their families. Not only are you feeding those who sit around your table for dinner, you are responsible for feeding every mouth around every table for every employee. Owning that is part of being a leader.

How do you handle private conversations? I knew an executive who loved to brag about publicly humiliating people. He would leave his office door cracked open so people in the halls could hear him brashly fire someone. He boasted about how he sneered at an “underling” in a meeting for wasting his time. When the guy’s boss called to apologize he screamed that the apology was NOT accepted because an underling that clueless could only be a sign of poor management. Real leaders have learned how to have private conversations in private without any fan fair or bravado.   

What are you doing for personal development? Being a leader isn’t a box that can be checked or a single class to be attended. It is an ongoing process of learning, applying, reading and relearning. You have to decide what type of leader is authentically you, what works for your followers and what lets you sleep the best at night and then practice it - every day.

How do you remember? There is a lot of great information available on how to become and be an impressive leader; books, seminars, coaches, articles. When you find a nugget that strikes you and makes you think, “I could use that.” How do you keep track of it? A folder on your desktop? (I use this one) Sticky notes on the wall? (This one too) Hope and a prayer that you’ll remember it when you need to? If you don’t have a plan to remember, you’re planning to forget.

What do you share? When I was in college I  knew I understood something when I could teach it. When a grad student overslept and didn’t show up for a review session for a calculus exam, I swallowed my fear of looking like an idiot and ran the session. I learned a lot in that session because I had to explain why not just do. The same is true of leadership skills. If you can explain how-to you are well on your way to having the skills be a core part of your person.

The things that take energy as a leader – the office politics and drama, figuring out how to handle an employee’s personal crisis and letting an under-performer go are managed in private – not in front of the cheering public that we think of when we think about leaders.

Where has your journey to leadership taken you?

As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!

Doc Robyn

Today’s post was inspired by Jody Porowski, founder and CEO of Avelist who was quoted as saying, “A lot of Leadership is a private journey.”

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Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence in all aspects of life through active leadership, powerful teamwork, effective communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her one-on-one, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at

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