Sign up FAST! Login

The journey to authentic leadership is not a straight line. ~Bill George, senior fellow at Harvard Business School

Stashed in: Leadership!, Character, Kleiner Perkins, Awesome, @sherylsandberg, Jobs, HBR, life, Leadership

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

I agree that it's not a straight line.

Former Vanguard CEO Jack Brennan believes that the worst thing people can do is to manage their careers with a career map: “The dissatisfied people I have known and those who experienced ethical or legal failures all had a clear career plan.” Brennan recommended being flexible and venturesome in stepping up to unexpected opportunities. “If you’re only interested in advancing your career, you’ll wind up dissatisfied,” he said.

The idea of a career ladder places tremendous pressure on leaders to keep climbing ever higher. Instead, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer (COO) of Facebook, favors the idea of a career “jungle gym” where you can move up, down, or across. Realistically, your development as a leader is a journey filled with many ups and downs as you progress to your peak leadership and continue leading through the final stage.

Phase I: Preparing for Leadership

Phase I is preparing for leadership, when character forms and people act as individual contributors or lead teams for the first time. Today, very few leaders make career commitments in their twenties. Increasingly, they use the time following college to gain valuable work experience, oftentimes changing jobs every 18 to 24 months to diversify their experience. Many young leaders are interested in going to graduate school in business, law, or government. Even some whocomplete their master’s degrees prefer individual contributor roles in consulting or finance before committing to a specific company or industry.

There is a natural amount of self-absorption in this phase. Measures of success in your teens and twenties are based primarily on what you accomplish as an individual. Your performance determines what schools you are admitted to and how well you do in your work. Here’s how Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’s Randy Komisar described it:

We begin life on a linear path where success is based on clear targets. Life gets complicated when the targets aren’t clear, and you have to set your own. By rubbing up against the world, you get to know yourself. Either do that, or you’re going to spend your life serving the interests and expectations of others.

He acknowledged that the start of the journey is particularly hard for young people “They look at me and say, ‘Hey, man. All I want to do is to get a good job, buy a house, get married, and have kids.’” Komisar said he wished life were so simple. Instead, he tells them:

Let me just plant this seed. Keep it alive and come back to it in 10 years, but don’t flush it. Ask yourself the question “What do you want out of your life?” I want to empower you for that time when it’s relevant to you.

You May Also Like: