I wanted a Tesla because I think they’re cool. They work on electricity, they have a laptop size screen in the center console, they have sentry mode, and they can drive autonomously. I had this reoccurring daydream. I park my Tesla and go to work. At some point in the morning some guy tries to break into my Tesla.
Well, Tesla for some reason gains self-awareness and reasons that it should disable its locked state, which the unsavory character is all too pleased about. He gets in and Tesla locks the doors. Tesla decides to alert the local police, and then drive the guy to the police station. Tesla takes pictures with the police handcuffing the guy and taking him away. Tesla, seeing the work is done returns to the same parking space to wait for me. When I return, Tesla tells me how it foiled a crime. I say, “that’s great Tesla, tell me all about!” Before Tesla continues it tells me that it ordered me some pizza and we should wait there another 5 minutes until it arrives. I say, “that’s great Tesla!” While I’m looking at the pictures of the perp, Tesla says, “here comes your pizza!” I say, that’s great Tesla!” But this is only a dream. I’d have to consult with my finances to make this dream come true.
My finances just said I can’t get a Tesla, but I can get that pizza in my dream. That’s great finances!
Scientists say children recognize themselves at around the age of 18 months. At some point in our work-life we see the reflection of ourselves in a difficult situation. You know, it’s that ‘I can do this” moment. But we wait to see if someone else will come forward. And sometimes they do – don’t you just hate that?! Well, there is relief because the gap is covered. If you felt the angst and the relief in that moment, you are a leader. Sure, you missed an opportunity to lead, in that situation but you saw the need and more importantly, you saw yourself leading.
This kind of self-awareness is sparked by the burden of responsibility. In this case, it’s not your responsibility yet, but no one else was there to occupy it. The first time I became self-aware in a crisis, I understood the scope of the work and what the team stood to lose. It bothered me to see wander around and only talk about the work that we should be doing. This was a lonely time. I wondered if anyone else was thinking what I was thinking. I acted – one moment I was doing what everyone else was doing and the next, I was giving them direction.
It wasn’t so bad. The team rallied and we all started pulling together and giving each other direction. But this was a one-off situation, there wasn’t a promotion for me, our supervisor was out and would come back the next day. But It made me wonder, how could I have led the team by myself? What if they didn’t help me to lead the effort?! I learned that I can’t get ready for a promotion when I hear about it. I must start preparing as soon as I get hired. No matter what job I have now, that’s the preparation for the next one. I needed to pay attention not only to my work but my manager’s work too.
Every decision made was an opportunity to learn about what works and doesn’t work. What I learned from that first self-awareness event was that the relationships I had with my co-workers was important for leadership. You see, even if I did get promoted in the example I shared, my team was already full of informal leaders, if I didn’t take time to relate to and with them. They would have only allowed me to manage them.
Our self-awareness is heightened when faced with difficulties. Because we no longer have the innocence nor the ignorance of a child, we may lack the confidence to act. Being aware of what’s happening around you and who you are is the beginning of your leadership. Don’t miss that opportunity, as too much is at stake.