Unlearning Traditional Leadership
The word “leader” carries a with it a lot of baggage for me. The majority of my childhood I was told I was a leader, which meant (by those who were telling me) that my actions weren’t my own because they influenced how others would act on the playground as well!! *Yes, I was a rabble rouser.
I carried this “leader” burden throughout different stages of my life. I studied it, read all the books. I wanted to master it. I remember reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers — the one that popularized the concept of “10,000 hours”, that the people who were the best in class weren’t any more talented, they just had more time spent with their craft — and straining to figure out what I had been putting my hours into. I decided that leadership was something I had a lot of practice in, so I would double down on that to become really great at it. I think this was a mistake.
First, leadership is something very difficult to quantify. It’s subjective, as with any business principle, and yet it is rife with people narrowly defining what it is.
Secondly, our traditional understanding of the term leadership seems to be way too black and white. As in, there are leaders and there are followers. Pick a side, or even worse, it’s going to be chosen for you so just deal with it.
So when I was posed with this question of how I define leadership, this is what I had to say…
A leader is someone who lives with conviction and a belief that the world is made better by their actions.
As I’ve learned to shed the stereotypical frameworks that envelope the concept of leadership, I’ve come to believe it’s truly as simple and profound as this. (Wait… and aren’t the simplest things often the most profound anyway?)
So what’s needed?
Conviction. You need to stand for something. You need to have a point of view, a way of showing up in the world, that you care deeply about.
Action. You act as if what you do matters, because it truly does. This spans the gamut from the work of your actual vocation, to the way you treat people closest to you.
What do you think? How would you define a leader?