I had the privilege to attend a student leadership conference this weekend in which the act of being a leader was clearly defined and demonstrated before me by a variety of people from across the nation. It is ingrained in us that a leader is a powerful individual that accomplishes their goals in an extravagant way, but this weekend taught me that leadership isn’t as enormous and intangible as it appears to be. The major component of being a leader is to define yourself first before proceeding to impact others. Metaphorically, we must be a thermostat rather than a thermometer.
One of the key speakers by the name of Jonathan Sprinkles (shout out to you Sprinkles) brought up the main point that being a thermostat, rather than a thermometer, is the key to great leadership.
A thermometer simply tells you what the environment around it is doing. If it is hot outside, a thermometer will tell you it’s hot. If it’s cold outside, a thermometer will tell you it’s cold. It’s a simple cycle of the mercury rising, falling, and rising again concurrently with the world that is directly around it.
Without even realizing it, a lot of us will mimic the energy of others the way the mercury in a thermometer mimics its environment. If someone is having a bad day, we feel as if we can’t have a good one or we feel “bogged down” by their emotions. If we introduce ourselves to a stranger with high energy and that energy is not reciprocated back to us, we are then bumped down to a new lower state energy. This new lower state energy carries on with us to the next person we meet as we put on a mask of a whole new individual who differs from that first encounter. Why do we do this? Why do we feel the need to mimic others emotions, why do we feel as if we can’t be ourselves to strangers, and let their actions impact ours so much? Rather it be the fear of rejection or lack of confidence, we tend to put ourselves down before others can. Even though a leader should be able to play off the people around them, they should not experience a personality change from the presence of others. Instead, they should be a thermostat.
Instead of solely reading its environment, a thermostat changes the current temperature to whatever it may choose. A thermostat is set on a certain temperature and regardless of the environment around it, no matter the circumstance, the thermostat will reach its ideal temperature.
To be a good leader we must be confident enough in ourselves to make a line in the sand and state, “this is where I stand and I won’t cross this line.” A true thermostat can walk into the room and own the place by simply sticking to who they are. A true thermostat, and therefore a true leader, will be true to themselves and have their own aura/sense of energy that others want to follow.
To help further grasp this concept, picture yourself in a scenario where you walk into a room full of people that all have a different stance on a particular subject than you. Every single person in that room has the same opinion and that opinion opposes yours. Now ask- would that change my opinion? Would I completely change my stance to please others? Or would I even fake changing my stance so they would leave me alone?
If your answer is yes, than you’re like the rest of us. It’s human to fear being rejected, to fear failure, and to have a natural tendency towards following others. But like myself, we can work toward developing into a leader who leads by example rather than telling, a leader who is confident enough in themselves to create those who wish to follow.
What they don’t tell you about leadership is that all you have to do is be yourself.