As the Director of Studies of a language school and teacher training center, one of my duties is to lead a group of teachers, trainers and professionals from other fields, and, on top of that, promote teamwork, career development, and of course, profit, because it is, at the end of the day, a business.  I must say that this is no easy challenge, it is actually quite the contrary.

Eleven years ago, when I started my company, I thought that as a leader, I should provide my collaborators with all the available opportunities for professional development, and this way I would be a good leader – they would “like me” and “work better together“, because I was giving them what they wanted. Little did I know that what I was doing was, in fact, neglecting myself of growth, so others could grow before me, and in consequence making my role as a leader more and more redundant, since I did not have the right tools or direction to lead.

I had spent years investing time and money in my team and not a single dime in myself, and yet, I constantly received ingratitude as ROI. But why? This was the question that had haunted me for about 6 years. While I asked myself and the Gods about what I should do in order to change this scenario, my company was heading to bankruptcy.

After a 2-year commitment to pay all the debts, I had finally improved not only my company’s health, but my own. I was only able to do this because I some measures were taken and I was focused.

Through this long and life-changing journey, this is what I have learned:

  1. Start by investing in yourself: Take courses, attend professional development events, talk to specialists in Accounting, Marketing, Finances, Law, ELT, etc. Take a close look at your career and plan carefully your professional development. Do not, by any circumstances, stop learning.
  2. Surround yourself with like-minded professionals and friends: You do not need to have “followers” on social media (or as the current linguo “fans“), what you need is trustworthy people who share the same values as you, this will provide you with the strength and support needed during the difficult times (and believe me, there WILL be difficult times).
  3. Believe in the people who work with you: Trust is fundamental and complicity is a must. I had been accused of being “too nosy” by people who worked with me, but I need to confess, I am only nosy with the people I truly care. What I mean is that you must know each other in a way that you anticipate possible reactions and you “speak the same language“. People “operate” in different ways, and that is OK.
  4. Know who you are: Do you actually know who you are? I sadly found out that most people have absolutely no idea who they are and mistakes start happening from there. Make sure you are certain of your values, because they will be the steppingstone to insure your growth.
  5. Have a purpose: A life without purpose is a lifetime in a grey day. Purpose is personal and professional, they are intrinsically intertwined, one cannot exist without the other. Purpose is the reason you get out of bed in the morning, it is the air you breathe, and a leader, a true leader, is driven by purpose.

You might be wondering: “But I don’t own a company, so I will never be a leader“. My answer: I beg to differ.  We can be leaders in our homes, in our schools, in our communities, in countless places or situations, but the most important corner we need to lead is our minds. In summary, one can only be a true leader if one undoubtedly knows oneself.

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.

Aristotle