Leadership is a choice, not a position – Stephen Covey
I was 25-years-old when I became a boss.
I was afforded the incredible opportunity to conceptualize from the ground-up a content marketing division for a then 41-year-old media company. It was the type of opportunity you don’t expect to receive four years out of college. Not only would I have the chance to work with some smart, passionate executives to start a new division, but I would also have the opportunity to hire a team. It was an impossible opportunity to turn down.
And so, at 25, I moved into my first office, hired my first team and worked with some pretty innovative folks to launch a digital marketing agency.
Becoming a Boss
When I accepted the position, a lifelong mentor advised: “Once you take your first managerial role you will realize you either hate or love managing people.” Being the Chatty Cathy, extrovert that I am, it came as no surprise that I loved managing others. Over two-and-a-half years, I hired more than 10 marketers, coached college grads through their first professional jobs, embraced an open door policy, made time for weekly one-on-ones and spent a bit too much time asking “Are you OK? How do you feel about your job?”
But despite my inherent desire to be a great leader, I also spent too much time being a boss.
I unintentionally micromanaged; I preferred receiving the “yes” rather than a “What if we considered it differently?”; I created the vision instead of establishing shared vision. In part, I was scared. I was afraid of giving “too much power” to a team; of not being respected at such a young age; of failing at the job at hand. But, in truth, I was also scared of someone on my team showing so much of their raw talent and natural light that I would no longer be the only act in town.
A Mindset Shift
Something really interesting began happening in that third year. I began shifting my mindset. Recognizing that there is a difference between a “boss” and a “leader,” I began to amend my style. I welcomed creative dissonance; I hired those I believed would challenge me; I explored creating an environment in which failure was OK so long as a learning moment was derived; and I began empowering the team.
Around the same time, I began reading about leadership, taking a personal interest in the topic. I was inspired to learn about Level 5 Leadership in Jim Collins’ best-seller “Good to Great,” a notion that posits that true leaders do not want credit but want success to sustain over a longer period of time, even long after they are gone. I was fascinated by “The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability” and being able to recognize above- and below-the-line behaviors. At that time, I was also being introduced to some pretty amazing people at other companies who had next-gen beliefs on leadership—and so I picked their brains as well.
There were so many personal and professional milestones reached during that pivotal time in my career. But what I consider perhaps my greatest achievement is beginning to realize the difference between being a “boss,” which is what I said “yes” to at age 25, and being a “leader,” which is how I left at age 28.
When I moved on from the agency, I was able to take so many important lessons learned about leadership to my current role today. I am still leading a team of marketers, but I feel different and I know I am leading differently.
See, I’ve come to believe that leadership is a choice. It's not about hierarchy; title; or previous experience. Rather, it's about mindset; choices; beliefs; a way of life. It’s about positively impacting the lives we touch and recognizing that each of us—no matter our stage of life—has leadership potential. What’s more, it’s about recognizing that each of us carries a responsibility to unleash the leadership potential in others as well.
So… what kind of leader will you be?
Carrie Majewski is committed to affecting change. As Founder of the Women in Leadership Nexus, Carrie is fueled by a desire to create safe space for female luminaries to convene to redefine the notion of leadership. She has forged a career around strategic writing and storytelling, having led a digital marketing agency for almost three years and today working as Marketing Principal for Trilix Tech. Carrie was named to the 2017 Rhode Island “40 Under 40” list and is a 2016 Rhode Island Tech10 Winner. In her spare time you'll find her trying out a local hip-hop class, exploring parks with her rescue dog Tori, and sipping coffee with other powerhouse women.