Learning from my nine-year old self

When I was a little girl I wanted to be the Prime Minister when I grew up. My goal was to be the first female PM of Australia. I had this dream for a number of years but it started to wane as I went through my teen years. Why? Because I saw that to be a politician you had to be willing to have people dislike you. A lot. My teen self, still coming to terms with my identity and struggling with self-esteem issues, could not fathom being in a position where I would be constantly judged and criticised. Flash forward to 2015 and now I am not so sensitive nor naive. That’s not to say that I am not ever intimidated, as the people pleaser in me still wants to be liked and to be seen to do the right thing. The difference is that age and experience has given me knowledge and a resilience that my younger self could not fathom.
This week being a leader has meant taking criticism and facing it head-on. It has meant being willing to be brave and have challenging conversations. It has meant calling others on mistakes they have made and it has meant that I have made mistakes which I have learnt from, that I don’t intend to make again. A colleague has said that one of my great qualities is my ability to learn from my mistakes, that I only make them once. I hope so but I think I am also mature enough to know that nothing is ever that simple. That sometimes when things are not so black and white, and you are dealing with the complexities of peoples’ personalities and egos, there are many components to take into consideration. Nine year old Tamara still had that to learn when she saw early visions of a Julia Gillard-esque future.

Dealing with the fall-out surrounding a decision this week had me reflecting on how it should have unfolded. Knowing the right questions to ask and knowing when and how to ask them is a skill any good leader needs to possess. It can be difficult if you don’t know the questions to ask in the first place, if you are not in a position of knowledge so that you can see all facets. However, that doesn’t make you wrong either. This is where it is important to be a part of a strong team of individuals who can help each other to ask the right questions, collaboratively. What I was reminded of this week is that it will take time to build our team. That we are still learning from and about each other. Our team has been forced to face it’s first big change head-on, much earlier than we should have had to, but it has certainly clarified that the team is in its fledgling stage. We now have an opportunity to move forward based on what we’ve learned.

I am quickly collecting examples of what I don’t want to happen. Sometimes that is a much easier way to clarify what you want – by basing it on what you don’t want to see occur. So here is what I don’t want to see happening as part of our leadership team:

1. We are unwilling to be open and frank in our conversations;

2. We care more about our own agenda than serving others;

3. We don’t look equally at the big picture and the smaller details;

4. We are too bogged down in the operational to get to the strategic;

5. We undermine the collective by not presenting a united front; and

6. We shy away from the tough conversations.

My older self can now see that dealing with the challenges and having the brave, risky conversations keeps us accountable. Interestingly, it also affirms our vision. For if you are truly dealing with people in a just, honest way, there will always be a need to address issues. That’s human nature. I hold out high hopes that is what is occurring at all levels of leadership, especially those who govern our country. Who knows, maybe in a few years, I’ll be ready for a career change?

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About Tamara Powell

I'm a teacher embarking on the new role of Deputy Principal in 2015 at an independent, co-educational school. I am a full-time working mum of two. I love learning, I love reading and I love seeing my peers and my students engaged and inspired.
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