Having been on 12 flights in the past seven days, I have heard it said each flight, “In the case of an emergency, be certain to secure your own oxygen mask first before helping others. . .” The first time I heard this, flying with my husband and newborn daughter, I was downright offended: How could it be right to save myself before saving my child?
It turns out this instruction is also a life lesson. I can be of no help to my family, my employees, my patients, nor to anyone else, if I am not in a good place myself. In the example of flight, without oxygen, I will pass out before I can help anyone. In the example of life, a leader is only as effective as the time she spends learning to be.
AN EDUCATION IN LEADERSHIP
When I was in high school, my father went back to school and worked diligently to obtain his master’s degree in leadership. He would come home excited and share what he was learning. I listened but I was so busy with my own studies, I had no time to study leadership. Later, when I had graduated from optometry school, completed my residency and was on my own, I learned quickly the importance of studying leadership. So, I began my own studies, and they have not, nor will they, ever be completed. Some lessons that helped me become a more effective leader:
- Everyone is a leader; how they choose to lead is a personal decision and a very important one as well. There are those who choose not to be effective leaders and even say that it doesn’t matter because they are not in leadership positions. What they have yet to understand is that we are all leaders to someone: our children, our employees, our social groups, our patients and anyone else who looks to us for direction.
- The most effective leaders lead by example. When I have a problem in my office, it is the result of a leadership issue, and I must take the blame. When things go well, it is because I have chosen to lead by example. I cannot expect my team to be respectful of each other and our patients if I do not show respect to them and to our patients.
- Effective leaders understand that their team must be cared for first before their team can care for the customer. Put another way, the most effective leaders know, as author Simon Sinek says, “Leaders Eat Last.”
- An effective leader is a lifelong learner. I love knowing that I don’t have to be the smartest, I just have to be a good listener/reader/learner.
- True leaders remember how they achieved success and understand how quickly success can disappear without constant learning. A leader understands, as Jim Collins outlines in his book “How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give in” that for a business, stage one of the five stages of decline begins “. . . when people become arrogant regarding success as virtually an entitlement, and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place. . .”
- Leaders are not discouraged by their weaknesses. They recognize, as author John Maxwell says in his book “No Limits: Blow the Cap Off Your Capacity,” “Self-awareness is the first step in achieving your true potential as a leader.”
I am so thankful you are on this journey of learning with me. Take the time to improve yourself because, after all, you cannot help others until you help yourself. OM