Every successful leader needs to develop her own blueprint for success. Each leader’s blueprint is unique, comprising personal insights and experiences, as well as learnings from mentors they wish to emulate.
More than a decade ago, I spent two years working for the Botswana government in the Central Kalahari Desert. The perspective I gained through this jarring immersion in a completely new environment, packed with social, financial, and cultural contrasts, inspired me to develop my personal blueprint. Successfully navigating this extraordinary cross-cultural experience required me to define a clear vision, collaborate with others, and have the courage to make tough decisions. These tenets have held true for me as I’ve progressed toward my career and personal goals.
Develop a clear vision and measure success. Invest the time to think about what success means to you. Is it a certain role in your company? Industry? Community? Or is it degree of impact? Only you know the answer, but you must find clarity before you can be successful. Whether it was working in Africa, graduating from law school or taking responsibility for a business unit, achievement has never been a passive phenomenon. If you can’t define and measure the “end-state,” you’ll never get there. Success is a culmination of realizing myriad goals, and it requires you to tend and nurture your vision to ensure it evolves with relevance.
Be collaborative. Leadership and success are seldom accomplished single-handedly. Learn to listen to your colleagues, understand what success means to them, and create solutions that everyone can support. To me, success is rarely about individual pursuit; rather, by listening, influencing, and working collaboratively, the success and accomplishments realized synergistically surpass those that would have been achieved alone.
Have courage. There is an old adage that says, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Taking personal risks can create the most valuable learning experiences. Have the courage to step up to opportunities or initiatives that challenge your comfort zone and expand your competencies. Manage risk-taking appropriately, but trust your instincts. This will be increasingly important as you progress to a position of leadership and influence and are called upon to make tougher decisions. Sometimes courage is simply not settling for sub-optimal solutions.
I continue to learn and find myself constantly refining my personal blueprint. The key is to set your sights on what is important to you and to use your own blueprint to make it happen.