It took me many, many years to express myself as a leader and many more to embrace the title.
So many reasons…
- Because I’m an Aussie and that would mean I’m ‘up myself’ i.e. implying that I’m ‘better’ than others.
- Because then there were followers and who wants those pesky responsibilities.
- Because I did not feel solid enough within myself to claim such a title.
- Because I thought I was too young, not smart enough, to flighty, too unprepared, not serious enough, not ready enough – the list goes on.
- Because I thought I was wrong.
And the thing is this list is just the tip of the iceberg. Yes – it’s about self-esteem and self-talk. But that’s not the only thing such lists are about.
I don’t feel any of these things any more (well, not most days anyway) – in fact, as society would recognise I have actually become rather ‘up myself’.
In Australia it is not the cultural norm to work hard towards the goal of being recognised as a leader. And because this is not the norm there are a whole bunch of mechanisms NOT in place – (and a whole lot of BS, very expensive ‘programs’ in place where a community of support should be)*
Is this perhaps why our political world is so bereft of those loved and admired leaders of yesteryear right now? I believe this isn’t entirely the fault of the pollies (and despite some opinions, they aren’t all bad) – we are a society hungry for gossip and personal ‘dirt’. We dine out on it, churn it, twist it and treasure it. Surely that story is never going to end well for a country.
So, what does it take to create a shift in our culture? A shift which enables us to nurture and create the leaders that society is going to need to guide us into the future (and boy are we going to need them)? Here’s my 2 cents:
- Solid mentors are essential for the development of new leaders – people who are willing to step forward and share what they know, be brazenly honest about their failures and generously candid about how their triumphs came about. We need these mentors to rise up – beyond the restraints of ‘programs’ and just seek out people to share their skills and knowledge with. – if you are someone with skills to share get out and seek those who will value your knowledge.
- We need to take the time to stop – and spend time with these mentors. Nothing good came of busy, busy, busy. Without the mentee making time for conscious learning and connecting there’s not a lot of point in the mentors rising up. This time starts with a personal decision and it continues with workplace policy. Make it happen – if you are a rising leader without a mentor change that today.
- And speaking of time – time to reflect on what’s happened, will happen, could happen, growth, learning, what’s been noticed. Without this time life is just a big blur of busy without acknowledgement of change.
- Screw the if’s, but’s and maybe’s – there is always a reason NOT to do something, seek out reasons TO do it and the obstacles will find a way to melt.
- The ability to fail. PEOPLE NEED TO BE ABLE TO FAIL WITHOUT FEAR OF GOING VIRAL. Our culture needs to learn to celebrate failure – not in a ‘startup’ business sense, but in a real life – shit! I made a mistake and I’m so sorry please give me time to remedy that kinda way.
- The ability to celebrate achievement. Let’s all be ‘up ourselves’. How else are we ever going to be able to celebrate what we do that is good?
- Reward and respect for integrity, honesty and transparency. To the best of my knowledge the only rewards that comes of upholding integrity, honesty and transparency are celebrated far into the future. These rewards and demonstrated through long term friendships, trust placed among networks and a seat at the table. This may not always seem the case in day to day business transactions which sometimes favour quite the opposite of this notion – we need to remember, and remind others that the truth does prevail and celebrate the values of integrity, honesty and transparency whenever we can.
- It’s time to move beyond stereotypes which form our expectations of leaders. The leaders we need for our future may not come in the form we currently expect. (and they sure as hell aren’t likely to have the best pout on Instagram).
Is our culture ready to live a new normal when it comes to our leaders? I’m not sure.
But I certainly am.
* note: some of those programs are very necessary and very good – none are substitute for a culture that recognises and promotes our leaders; past, current and future.