Most of us have heard some remnants of the Big Bang Theory regarding the origin of the universe. Essentially, the universe came out of a “singularity” – an infinitely small, infinitely hot and infinitely dense zone. Since the universe began, it has been expanding.
As I was re-reading Stephen Hawking’s book, “A Brief History of Time” and reflecting on the origin of the universe, space and time; I began to ponder the question “Where does leadership begin?”Is there a moment where a person’s experience, job title and education come together in a singular instance then they are a leader? I questioned if there was a moment in my life where I knew I stepped into leadership.
My singularity occurred nearly 20 years ago. Although I held a title that gave me tremendous amount of respect by family and friends (notice I didn’t say co-workers), I had grown tired of hearing how tacky I was, in performance reviews. This day, in a heated exchange with my manager in regards to my behavior and in a fit of frustration I vehemently declared “people skills and all this leadership stuff are for people who aren’t SMART enough to be engineers!”
At that moment, when what came out of my mouth circled back to my ears and I was confronted with my own arrogance, I felt infinitely small, infinitely embarrassed, and shocked at the infinite density of my self-centeredness. I realized I was not a leader, despite my engineering degrees. From that moment, where my career nearly imploded, my leadership journey began and my skill level has been expanding ever since.
So I postulate “The Leadership Big Bang Theory”:
“Leadership begins at the moment you realize you aren’t a leader; at the moment we walk away from our titles, education and selfish desires, that is at the end of arrogance we take our first step as a leader. Our leadership ability continues to expand though-out our lives as we discover who we are and who we are in relation to others.”
I don’t expect any phone calls from the Nobel Foundation on my new hypothesis, but I am curious if anybody else has had similar experiences in their leadership journey? Is there a moment where you knew something had to change and you began your leadership journey?