In our society, when we picture a leader, it’s common to think of someone that is strong-willed, high-spirited, and outspoken. These are traits that we tend to value in our leadership, but why has this become the norm?
The fact of the matter is that there are many people who may not fit that description, and yet are no less of a leader than those who do. Maybe it’s time to stop defining the word “leader” before seeing who the person actually is, first.
That is the focus of today’s blog post. We’ll talk about what it means to be a leader while also being unafraid of staying true to who you are.
It’s also important to note that “leader,” when used in this context, does not necessarily mean a boss or manager. Anyone can be a leader. You may lead an organization or a team, you may lead a household, or you may be striving to be a better leader of yourself. Don’t let the term “leader” be an exclusive term.
What’s the Definition of a Leader?
One of Merriam Webster’s definitions of a leader is “a person who has commanding authority or influence.” “Influence” is the key here.
Traditionally, a leader has been seen as someone who holds power. They are a decision-maker. And while it’s no secret that this term has become more accepting of ideas involving inspiration, support, and others, we still hold onto this notion that in order to be successful in this world, we have to be the loudest and flashiest. This is a myth!
A leader starts with being a leader of yourself.
Being Like an Elephant
While there’s nothing wrong with being assertive and outspoken for the things you want (on the contrary, it’s extremely brave and something to be admired), it simply doesn’t work for everyone. And just because someone is a certain way doesn’t mean that they aren’t a born leader.
To put it plainly, it’s okay to be gentle and for your words to be soft on the outside, and yet be a powerhouse on the inside.
When I work with clients, we use this idea of being like an elephant. They’re large and powerful, but their temperament tends to be one of tenderness. They’re often very gentle creatures.
But just because they are kind and sweet doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of using their immense power. It just means they prefer to be quiet-natured on the outside.
Accepting Your Own Leadership Style
Because some people are more like an elephant in their personality, they may feel like ineffectual leaders, simply because of what society has told us a leader must look like. The fact is that leadership comes in several different forms, and not one is more “right” than the next.
However, it’s important to take a step back and understand your own leadership style, why it works for you, and how you can use your strengths and values to inspire leadership in others. You may be gentle, but you also won’t tolerate people disrespecting you (this is when the powerhouse part of the elephant comes out).
Take some time to get to know yourself as a leader, and be open to the opportunity to grow. Growing doesn’t mean changing who you are, but rather taking the skills that you possess (gentleness, understanding, compassion, prudence, passion, enthusiasm, etc.) and finding new ways to incorporate them in order to reach your goals and be there for others.
Being Open to Others’ Leadership Styles
It’s neither useful or fair to put people into boxes based on their inherent personalities and ways of completing tasks. For instance, you may have someone in a leadership position over you that tends to be more aggressive in their approach. Or, you may have encountered someone that is more hands off, when what you felt you really needed was more support.
Therefore, while you’re in the process of accepting your own way of being a leader, try to be more mindful of others’ processes as well. There’s a whole ecosystem out in the world: not everyone can be an elephant. Communicate your needs with others and do the best you can to meet theirs in return.
As you get to know and recognize other peoples’ ways of being a leader, you may even start to recognize some of the ways you’d like to grow to incorporate some of their style into your own. Practice open-mindedness when dealing with others. You can turn your interactions into learning opportunities, rather than discomforts.
It’s okay to be an unconventional leader, as long as you’re consistently staying true to who you are and growing through the experience. Trying to pretend to be someone else just for the sake of fitting in with a societal definition will leave you feeling burned out and unhappy in the long run.
Be a leader that influences others and yourself.
If you want to learn more about your own leadership style and how to use it to achieve your goals, schedule a meeting with me. I’ll give you actionable advice for growing into the leader you’re destined to be.