There are times leaders ask themselves, “is it worth it? I’m thinking about work nonstop. I work on vacation. There’s never enough time in the day. Rarely are there enough resources”… and the list goes on. The mission is endless. It is worth it.

But let’s talk about the REAL work of a leader. Sure, the business responsibilities, behind the scenes navigation to success, the public interfacing, etc. are all critical components. But real leadership is developing people – others and YOU. As Chinese philosopher and poet Lao Tzu says:

“When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”
As leaders, our most important job is developing and empowering those around us. Preparing them with opportunities to win (and fail), learn, try, watch, contribute and do. It’s playing a role in helping them to fill their sails and confidently watching them take flight.

However, equally as important as developing others, real leaders are constantly learning and developing themselves. Learning to guide, yet let go. Having the ability to contribute, yet empower others. Taking a step back to establish more effective ways to communicate and truly get to know others – meeting people where they are. Being willing to accept and admit you aren’t always right – your ideas aren’t always the best or only ones. Being a leader is showing up as a human, as a partner verses some hierarchical stature on an org chart. Real leaders aren’t the only ones giving feedback. They are open to and genuinely interested in receiving it too.

As you’ve likely heard before…

Leadership isn’t a destination. It’s a journey.

My challenge to you is to consider creating goals around your own leadership journey. Maybe it’s a commitment to learn something new or focus on a key skill each week. Maybe it’s reading a new book each month or listening to a new podcast series. Perhaps it’s a schedule of quarterly deep dive check-ins with your team to learn more about how you can support them in their journey. Whatever the cadence, real leaders never stop learning. They never stop developing… themselves and others.