As a leader, I’ve come to learn that some opportunities aren’t afforded to you not because you haven’t done some preparation. Preparation is just the beginning. We get an education, and in some cases, more education. We learn and apply the learning. Those actions may lead to rewards and recognition in some cases. We serve the time, maybe performing in roles for years without movement. All these acts of preparation may seem to signal readiness, but sometimes there is still more work to be done.

The goal is that when the opportunity is afforded, you will be ready. You will lead with excellence. That only happens when the preparation and readiness are complete. Readiness is quite different from preparation. This is something that is better understood by older generations like the Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, and Gen Xers for sure. Younger generations may struggle a bit more with the concept of readiness primarily because the main reasons lie in their experiences tend to be more instantaneous. Their life experiences include advanced technology that provides information and answers at their fingertips. They are learning new information faster, increasing their abilities to apply that learning more quickly. This has created new generations that are better prepared earlier in many instances.

Readiness however is built upon preparation. It doesn’t begin to evolve until the foundational preparedness has transpired. This is where in many cases time and experience are the teachers. This is not a timed activity. This can be difficult to hear especially if you are one who excelled at preparation. It seems logical that what advanced you through the preparation stage will avail in the readiness stage. That process doesn’t apply here.

Our readiness is often built during the obstacles, hardships, roadblocks, difficult people, failures, and exhaustion we experience. It is during these experiences that we are conditioned to lead based on readiness. A wise man said, “be careful of following those who lead without preparation.” I would add to that statement, “be careful in following those who are not ready.” If you are in a position to lead others and are not ready, expect that your preparation will only get you so far. Inherently you will need to rely on the experiences of your readiness to lead effectively.

There may be times when you will receive opportunities to lead, and you are not ready. In those cases, it may be that the very opportunity being afforded to you will be where you will develop your readiness. This is where great mentors, sponsors, trusted advisors, and peer advisory groups can support your decision-making efforts. I learned that every opportunity presented to you is not for you. This may be a timing challenge or just it’s not aligned with your greater purpose and goals.

As I reflect on my career and life, I can clearly see where the experiences I’ve had were intentionally directed to prepare me and ensure that I was ready to lead in my purpose. This is why I am very intentional about which projects, clients, and opportunities I say yes to. I take my leadership seriously as it is important to me that those that engage me in services can have the confidence in knowing that I am not only prepared, but I am ready to lead. Are you ready to lead?