Our Miseducation On Leadership

Leadership is something that both calls to me at the core, and frightens the hell out of me. For months, years really, I felt the ache of wanting to make a difference, do something ANYTHING to leave “real” impact on the world.

And I never started, because every time I began to I backed out out of apprehension. And that apprehension essentially stemmed from me not feeling as though I was “qualified” to be the leader I envisioned myself being.

I scanned Ted talks, articles, blogs, devouring their messages, resonating with speakers, and trying to find myself in the leaders in front of me. I fit the profile, character-wise…I knew that. My heart was in the right place, I had passion and believed strongly in my ideals.

But I felt like that wasn’t enough because…I haven’t been through anything. I haven’t organized any awesome campaign, or lived through a traumatic experience. I’m just an average girl, with an admittedly cushy life, trying to make a difference in the world but frankly, feeling under qualified. Why would anyone listen to me? What I have done to back up what I’m saying… What do I have to show for it?

But honestly it just hit me. I’m me! And I think I’m awesome, and a pretty good person, thank you very much, and a lot of other people do too.

And I say that not to toot my own horn, but to call attention to something that I think we can all gain something from: most of us don’t give ourselves enough credit. We don’t. And most of us have no real idea of how great we are.

And I started to wonder if maybe there weren’t other ways I could measure my capacity for leadership. Sure I’ve never led a massive grassroots campaign, but I’ve started small service projects in my community. I may never have led a protest, but I’ve stood up for individuals and causes that I believe in on a smaller scale. Doesn’t that count for something?

Is it not the little everyday acts that determine your greatness, that define you as a good person? As a leader?

Maya Angelou once said “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That quote has always resonated with me, and it was only recently that I realized why.

It was because that’s how I’ve always lived my life, and it’s an understanding that I think we fail to grasp often. Leadership has never been about what you do, and certainly not about what you say. Leadership is truly measured in how you make people feel, what you do to better the world and make for more positive experiences on this earth. That’s all it is.

People will forget your words, they may even forget your acts. But they’ll never forget the care you took, the smile you shared when it was most needed. The word of encouragement. The extra mile you went to be of assistance. And if someone like Maya Angelou, who could be a poster child for our usual idea of a “leader”–having been through traumatic experiences, received numerous honors, gained worldwide notoriety and fame–if despite all that, even she would say that what really matters is the impact you make on people’s hearts…then I think we have it all wrong.

It’s time to reevaluate what a leader really is, and invite more of us to step up to the plate. You’re already qualified.

The first step of leadership isn’t a notable cause or a wide-reaching platform. It’s an attitude adjustment.

And it’s only with that attitude that you CAN have a become a renowned speaker, lead a campaign, be a “leader” in the sense that we always think of it.

We’ve had it backwards all along.

You don’t become a leader by doing these things; you are able to achieve these things BECAUSE you are a leader. It starts inside, and it starts small.

The good news, then, is that anyone who wants to be a leader can become one. Understanding that will open your eyes to the many daily opportunities you have to be a leader: I promise you they are there, and I challenge you to begin being attuned to them. TC mark

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