Life is full of lessons that form a lens through which you perceive business challenges and solutions. I remember a banker telling me a lesson he learned early on. As one of the youngest financial directors, he had been responsible for the budget. As with all budgets, it had needed adjusting during the year. No big deal to experienced managers, but a bummer for a young director trying to prove himself. He solved it next year by contingency planning. Not making the budget taught him to deal with uncertainty, a lesson that came in handy during periods of major change.
Another banker told me about his youth in central Europe. People there were totally self sufficient, because they had to survive severe winters. Each winter, snow and ice would cut them off from the grid. Simple wood stoves, canned crops and smart water supplies helped sharing communities through it. This childhood experience taught him that people can go off grid with the snap of their fingers -if they really want or have to-. In his eyes, this lurking need for autonomy was translated into a stream of novel, simple, user friendly financial solutions so that customers could become finance savvy (autonomous). It turned him into an exceptional CEO with a distinct view and strategy.
Their stories made me reflect on my own history. When I was in my early twenties, I became the youngest board member of Amnesty International's Dutch section. In my first term, I struggled with the responsibility. I found it hard to add value in the company of very experienced board members. Lucky for me, the Chairperson suggested that I'd take my unique experiences in the organization and use it as a lens through which I could assess pros and cons, benefits and consequences of any topic under discussion. From then on, I always asked myself: how would this help the work of our grass-root membership? To this day I'm thankful for this advice. As long as I keep looking through my lens, I know I can make any decision. No longer for the benefit of Amnesty's grass-root members, but for my clients and my family. This lens resulted in my passion for unraveling perspectives, a crucial skill in decision-making.
It's good to be aware of the crucial moments in your life that made you into the business person that you are. Being aware means that you are authentic and straight about the why of your decisions. The awareness can help you develop your own leadership style to perfection.