Three Things I Would Tell My 20 Year-old Self

Reflecting upon the journey that has lead me into leadership, there are three things that I would love to tell my twenty-year-old self.

One: There is a great difference between having a title and having influence.

Two: There is a great difference between having a resume and having a reputation.

Three: There is grave importance in understanding that a position is more often perceived and responded to than it is verbally communicated.

Within the scope of leadership there is a progression which allows a leader to be a decision-maker and an influencer. Around the age of twenty, I was beginning my leadership journey and I wish someone would have told me not to seek titles, but rather lay a foundation that would propel me to have influence.

Titles can be generic and empty. If you look for confirmation in your title, you may find yourself empty-handed because a title is merely a word. Instead, I would have told myself to chase a specific skill set. In doing so, I would be able to obtain an area of influence and become indispensable.

Secondly, I would emphasize to my younger self the importance of investing in a reputation, rather than building a resume. I wish I had understood that a resume helps you get your foot in the door, but it is your reputation that will keep you there. A resume is fickle, but a reputation takes time to cultivate. It is formed by showing up early, staying late, and treating your work (as well as those with whom you work) with respect. If it becomes tarnished, you cannot fix it with a mouse-click. Reputation is forged by the way you respond to the challenges you encounter, and I have found it is a truer statement of who you really are than a resume could ever be.

The last thing I would tell myself revolves around gaining confirmation without needing verbal affirmation. I recall a particular business meeting with potential clients. I was under the impression that this meeting was of the utmost importance; the meeting seemed to go well, but I felt underwhelmed by their response.

I called my boss to explain this feeling, and he responded by asking if I was meeting with influential people, and if they gave me the time of day? “Yes,” I replied. He explained to me that by their very presence at the meeting, they communicated more than they could have ever said audibly. I learned that day that when people give you their attention, they affirm your place of leadership. A decade ago I wish I had been able to find confidence and assurance in this, rather than seeking verbal confirmation.

Above everything else, these truths highlight the primacy of time in being a leader. I would want myself to know that it takes time to gain influence, it takes time to build a reputation, and it takes time to learn the cues that show you have arrived at a place of leadership. Leadership is not something you can quickly obtain; it must be grown organically over time through both success and hardship. So any secret to leadership is realization of this: that to truly be a leader there are no shortcuts.

Carolyn Haggard

Director of RainCloud Media


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