Updated: Feb 27
Leadership is a desirable place until you're in it.
In our careers many of us aspire to lead. We get in line for promotions, sign up to courses and certificates to be qualified for the ‘next’ career move. We put our hand up to lead projects and initiatives (often for the ‘privilege’ of experience rather than pay) because we want to demonstrate that we can do the job that comes with the right title, bigger salary, more status.
I remember being early on in my career, hungry for opportunities to profile myself and demonstrate my skills. And frustrated when I didn't get that job, that project, that promotion. Frustrated because I knew I could do it, but others did not seem to think so. I wanted so badly an opportunity to demonstrate my leadership but never got given it. And then it hit me.
Leadership isn't an opportunity that we get given, it’s a behaviour we draw on, a choice we make. Leadership is like creativity. We all have it - we just choose to use it, or not. Often, we wait to lead until we are in a formal position of leadership before we believe we have the right to lead. Because someone else has given us permission.
But leadership is the space we step into when we recognise the distance between what we know is our truth and what we see in the world and we take actions to make changes to close that gap. We neither need permission nor approval. But clarity and (depending how big that gap is) buckets of courage.
Since that fateful insight a few years ago, I do two things intentionally, often:
Understanding my truths closely and frequently is a priority. I get help with that all the time. In the last few years I’ve worked with mentors, coaches, and formal leadership programmes to bring this home for me and ensure that as my truths are evolving, so is my understanding of them. These are not ‘how to be a leader’ guides but ‘how to know more of me’ investigations.
I choose spaces that offer triggers for my leadership ideas & behaviours to show up. Conversations, art, work projects, writing, books, travel, people, mental models, playtime with my son. We can find a mirror of how we view and walk the world everywhere we look, if we are open to it.
If we are serious about bringing out the leader in us, the most important thing is to carve out time and space for this. To understand, articulate and embed our leadership behaviours into our lived experience. Leadership for me is ultimately about acting with integrity from a place of knowing inside myself towards a desired future state outside of myself. And bringing others on that journey with me, independent of my function or title within an organisation or community.