I was an early career leader making GM in a medium sized organisation before reaching 30. I made surprising progress by delivering on the bottom line. I was a good manager of 'things' and pretended my way around difficult people and conversations.
I had some people skills. I'd grown up in an environment where I learnt to recognise and absorb other people's views (navigating the path of least resistance while finding ways to do whatever the hell I wanted!). I genuinely liked, and was interested in people. I just didn't have the confidence or words to address the real issues, so I charmed and willed my way through instead.
I regularly changed jobs before anybody saw behind the mask (although I'm sure they did). I was on a mission to get to the strategic roles so I would have greater control. I could do the strategy and have others do the delivery.
Then I hit the wall. What had gotten me results, began to work against me. I broke some important relationships (at home and work). I burnt out, and I was hating life and myself.
Around the same time, the unprocessed death of my first love (at 21) came and bit me on the arse (13 years later!). It set me on a journey of personal discovery and psychological insight.
At the darkest point I got really confused. In an attempt to be more harmonious I tried burying my personality in a corporate shade of beige. In truth that didn't last long!
I clearly remember hitting rock bottom while working for a consultancy in London and saying to myself: 'If I have to be anything other than who I really am to do a job, then I'm not doing the job!' I gave myself permission to fail because I didn't want this to be my life.
That permission to fail, and a commitment to be myself, Liberated my Leadership.
After two years in London and about to return to my native New Zealand, a Scottish friend tipped me off on a job that seemed like it was written for me. I got the job as part of the Executive at the Scottish Institute of Sport before taking on the top communications role for Sport Scotland through the London Olympics/Paralympics, and Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Along the way I figured out the 'soft stuff' which not only unearthed the bridge to performance, but also turned out to be my passion. Better relationships and better conversations led to better results. It also led to a better life all round.
And it's not what you perhaps think. It certainly wasn't a game of perfect. It was messy and chaotic at times but always very human. What emerged was a clear recognition of how people are central to success for any leader. Better results and solutions are only going to happen through and with other people. So getting expert at genuinely connecting to others and having real conversations is what matters most.
I got a few surprises along the way. It turns out the soft stuff is totally learnable. The biggest surprise was discovering that it was my relationship to myself that had to change first.
The best surprise was connecting with people, having fun, and getting great results. Many of those folks have become good friends and it's a theme that's continued in my leadership work.
This was the foundation of the Propeller Leadership Accelerator. The Propeller Leadership Accelerator has helped many of my clients to become the leader they want to be, the leader their people deserve, and the leader the world needs them to be.
It's people and relationships that make us human. Success and fulfilment are an inevitable byproduct when we get real. It is 100% possible to be you, have the recognition and life you want, while making a real difference in your chosen field and to the people's lives you touch.
I still haven't decided what I'm going to do when I grow up, but the people I meet and the work we do together is a privilege!