I can’t stop thinking about our Eastern European vacation this summer. If you’ve ever been to Europe, you’ll know that one thing always stands out: History. Europe has couches older than our entire country, and that got me thinking. The First Nations of America can certainly relate to effects of being conquered and the loss of changing cultures, but as a nation, we can’t really comprehend what’s it’s like to have, to put it mildly, “new leadership.” However, many of us have experienced that in our work: a new boss, new CEO, new owner…
If you join a department, company, organization as the new leader, it’s easy to fall into the temptation to assert yourself and your authority right away, and while establishing yourself has merit, remember – you aren’t “conquering a people.” Unfortunately, many new leaders come in with just that mindset, like Attila the Hun. But remember, every member of that team you just acquired responsibility for has been there longer than you, they have history, tradition, language — and you absolutely have something to learn from them. As a leader, part of that insatiable curiosity we talked about last week means humbly learning about each other’s history.
People use their history to lay claim to the land they live in; the idea that “we’ve been here longer” gives a deep authority to people, as well it should. It doesn’t mean they have to resist change with violence — it’s more the idea that they just want to hold on to an identity. As new leaders in the modern, civilized, professional world, we can learn so much from those who historically came before us. By honoring that history, we can find the areas of connection; places and processes that can be improved — without wholesale, indiscriminate change. And that same idea is relevant for members of your team; those with more seniority will often feel a much deeper sense of authority in their role, and this can be a boon to you as a new leader — or it can cause conflict if it’s not respected.
Approach your new role with an insatiable curiosity, a humble attitude of learning,and not only will you gain the respect and connection of your new team — you’ll be better prepared for your role.