Leadership. This is one of those words that often brings up certain thoughts and feelings in each of us. You’re invited to get curious about what Leadership looks like for you this week. What words do you equate with a good Leader? Is it decisive, compassionate, a good listener, powerful, stable…?
In our world these days, we’ve been shown particular types of Leadership qualities. However, I invite you to really think about this for yourself. I know for me, the qualities of a good Leader are much different than what I thought when I was younger – what was modeled.
Here’s a story of Leadership – of the journey of exploring and honoring a different way of Leading.
When she was younger, she never thought of herself as a Leader. Actually, for a long time, she thought of herself as a follower. She was shy and reserved and took time to process things so for her, it felt more comfortable to follow others. The youngest of six children, following felt pretty normal. As she got older, though, things shifted.
She became a teacher in her 30s and then a manager in that same decade. Still she would not have called herself a leader.
She was diplomatic and liked to listen to what everyone said so sometimes she felt easily swayed. At that time, she equated qualities like decisiveness and maybe even a bit of authoritarianism as leadership attributes and since her behavior fell very short in those terms, she did not feel like a leader.
She remembers the first time this view was challenged.
She had participated in a personal development course for a weekend. She felt a bit shy in the group and as was often the norm, she would get a bit emotional each time she shared her thoughts with everyone. The facilitator even commented on this emotion and asked her about it, but she had no clear answer at the time. At the end of the course, there was a last activity and the facilitator whispered a message in each of the participants’ ear as a parting message.
The words that she heard as the whisper reached her ear surprised her.
They were: “You are a leader.”
The facilitator had seen her reservation, her nervousness in sharing with the group – even her tears, and still the message was that she was a leader.
Slowly, she began to re-define what leadership was.
She began to look at different types of leaders and notice what she appreciated about these differing types and what didn’t resonate with her. As she continued her personal development journey, she also realized that more and more, she was the Leader of her own life – not relying on what others thought, but getting clearer and clearer about what was most important for her and honoring that.
As she stepped more and more into the Leadership role in her own life, she realized that for her, openness, compassion, consistency, trust, reliability, support and inspiration were qualities that she appreciated in this role and in other leaders. And when she stepped into leadership roles in organizations later on, she realized that many people appreciated these qualities as much as she did. It was a softer type of leadership, but still firm when necessary in its consistency and the space held.
She has realized that Leadership still isn’t always natural for her. If there are stronger leaders in a group, she easily and effortlessly lets them take the lead. She observes and enjoys seeing elements in their leadership that aren’t a part of hers – that decisiveness, directness.
She realizes there is no ‘right’ way. And while sometimes she can bring in those qualities into her leadership as well, she knows that the other qualities of gentle steering and holding a quiet, solid, consistent container are just as valuable and much more her style.
They are the essence of the ways she lives her life.
These days she accepts her Leadership. She likes to experiment and play with it and develop it in new ways.
She realizes our biggest Leadership IS the one of being the Leader of our own life.
These days she acknowledges and appreciates herself as a Leader in ways she didn’t know were possible.
What qualities of Leadership are unique to you and how will you use them in the week/s to come?