For the next few weeks the media will flood your mind with lists. You can discover the top news stories, the top songs, the biggest winners and losers for the past year. You can learn about the athlete of the year, the most influential person, the man of the year or the woman of the year. It’s a popular way to reflect on the year and categorize some big events. North American culture seems to have a love/hate relationship with lists. You love to guess who will show up on the list. You love to read the list and see if “they” got it right. As soon as the list comes out, you hate the fact that your favorite song was left off the list. You love to debate and disagree. You hate the fact that they didn’t ask your opinion on the best athlete.
Instead of pondering a list of the “top 3 reasons” why this happens, consider just one of the basic drivers in this love/hate relationship. It is criteria. How does a “list maker” determine the top recipient? How do you begin to determine the most influential person? The measurements may be as tangible as measuring net worth of a group of celebrities for a list of the wealthiest or they may be more subjective.
When you see a list this season, it’s likely that the wheels inside your head turn very quickly. You won’t be able to jot down your criteria on a scratch pad before your mind starts to work. Instead, you see the category and begin to process in real time. Rapid-fire impulses about your tastes and preferences forge your opinion. Your opinion becomes the basis of agreement or disagreement with what you read.
Switch hats today. Stop being the critic and become the list maker. What were your top leadership experiences this year? There are no list makers to contend with over this list. You are in charge. It’s a worthwhile experiment. The moment you consider the question, the wheels begin to turn. So, what are your first thoughts? Depending on how well you have refined your leadership identity, you may have already nailed down a particular event or discovery with a lasting impact on your life. It may have been a finished project, fulfillment of a commitment to yourself, or a change in relationship. Whether by intention or not, your thoughts will testify of your deepest values and beliefs. Your “list” will reveal what you believe about yourself and leadership. Even though you are the “list maker”, you may contend with yourself over the list. That is a good thing. In fact, it is very healthy to wrestle over your beliefs and impressions.
Once you refine your list of top leadership experiences for 2014, the next step is to ask a few critical questions. Start with the question, “Why?” Why do these experiences top your list? “What?” What makes them worthy? “How?” How have these experiences impacted you? Are you a better person? Is the world a better place because of these experiences? How will you leverage the impact in your future? Carry the list with you and refer to your criteria from time to time. Continue the process of learning to lead.
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