by Laura Sue Johnson
Have you ever had a group of people staring at you and expecting you to know the answers to their questions? When you think of a leader, perhaps you imagine someone standing on a stage in front of hundreds (or even thousands) or you picture someone at the head of a long table with dozens of people with their swivel chairs facing this bold leader at the head of the room.
It’s possible that the people described above are leaders, but your position in the room does not define your qualification or existence as a leader. Position does not precede or even define leadership. So that begs the question: what does it mean to be a leader?
I love the definition of leadership from researcher and storyteller, Brené Brown. She says a leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential. Being a leader has nothing to do with the volume of your voice or the number of people in front of you. While volume gets attention, not all attention is positive. Think back to your years in school. I bet that you can think of a teacher who was actually a poor leader. None of his or her students wanted to follow that person anywhere. Why was this teacher a poor leader? It’s not because of how loudly or how quietly this person spoke (while both of these qualities could be a contributing factor, neither would ultimately determine someone’s qualification as a leader). Now, think back over your years of school again. This time, can you think of a teacher that most kids loved? What made this teacher stand apart? More than likely, when you get down to it, it has to do with how this person made his or her students feel.
How do you feel when someone believes in you? Invigorated? Encouraged? Brave? I was lucky enough as a teenager to have a few people in my life who called me a leader and I believed it. I was given opportunities and encouraged to take opportunities to lead my peers. With practice, it built my confidence. I honestly spent a long time thinking that leadership had something to do with the volume of my voice (be it literal or figurative), but I learned with time that I could encourage others just as effectively using a gentler approach. Also, I learned that solid leadership could not be about me. There was a time when I thought leadership was an opportunity for me to share what I know. What I have come to realize is that leadership has little to do with what I know and everything to do with helping the person in front of me tap into that potential that Brené mentioned.
A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.Brené Brown
I have found that there are a lot of reluctant leaders out there. There is a lot of talent that is left dormant and this could be for a number of reasons. People refrain from considering themselves to be leaders out of fear, lack of confidence, or they are operating from a basal definition of leadership to begin with. If we believe we have to be the loudest or have the most visibility before we can be a leader, we will likely be disappointed. Some of us are afraid of making mistakes, so it holds us back. In truth, some of the people I would consider to be my favorite leaders are quite honest about their failures, mistakes, and lessons they have learned along the way, so fear of failure should not be something holding you back. I am still learning how to have confidence as a leader, and I believe that confidence is like a muscle. I have to practice it in order gain more of it. I have found that most people I meet have the potential to be great leaders, but they have to believe it first. Being a leader does not mean you are the best at everything. I do think it means that you can bring out the best in the people around you.
Think about the people in your life that you have the opportunity to lead. It might be at work, but it may not be. Maybe you volunteer in your community and that is an area where you could build your confidence and experience as a leader. Leaders are good listeners. In your friend group, it is possible that your friends often look to you for guidance, wisdom, etc. What about in your family? Do you have the opportunity to encourage the people around you to dig a little deeper into their own potential?
So, are you a leader? Chances are, the answer is yes and there is deep potential yet you have to tap in to. If you are wanting to grow your leadership skills and learn how to better invest in the people around you, join us this fall for one of our Growth Groups.
Written by Laura Sue Johnson