Things do not change; we change – Thoreau
While I spend most of my professional time these days as a coach for leaders and their teams, I wasn’t always comfortable with the idea of leadership.
Or more specifically, the concept of my own leadership.
You might have called me a reluctant leader.
As a young professional, I wasn’t exactly looking for leadership opportunities. Instead, they wound up finding me.
It started with people asking me to do something. Their sentences would start like this: “You know, have you ever thought of….?” Or this: “I think you’d be really good at…”
Half the time, I wondered if they were talking to someone else: maybe they actually directing their suggestions to someone over my shoulder (…please, I hoped).
But they weren’t.
So, because someone asked me, I became the president of the state affiliate of my professional association.
I became president of the board of my food co-op, because someone asked me.
I became the supervisor to 10 of my former colleagues, most of whom were 20 years older than me. Because someone thought I could, and suggested I apply for the acting position.
I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit for these opportunities.
Sure, I thought I was competent, but who, me? A leader?
Clearly, other people saw something in me that I couldn’t see.
And as I stepped into these and other roles, I slowly became the leader that others saw in me.
Why was I oblivious to what was seemingly obvious to others?
Maybe my problem was that I had a faulty view of what being a leader meant: omnipotent, all-knowing and directive.
Now I know, as one of my mentors says, that a leader is someone who takes responsibility for their world.
Maybe I thought my voice didn’t matter, that I needed permission or approval, or that I didn’t have enough experience. Now I know that even my smallest contributions can help make the way clearer.
Last weekend, as I guided 100 people through a deep discussion and discernment process, I can clearly see the leader I am now: willing, responsible and brave.
Not waiting to be asked anymore, now I know I’m the leader others could see in me so many years ago.
In the Comments below, what’s your story? When have you been a reluctant leader? How did you shift to being the leader you are today?
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