I was being interviewed this week about leadership, and asked if I set out to be a leader or it’s something that just came to me later in life.
For me, leadership has come about from people seeking my guidance, my mentorship and by feeling inspired by what I do. All I’m doing is being genuine to myself and my core values in life, I’m just being me.
I do feel pressure that I don’t know enough to be in this position sometimes. Perhaps I should have studied leadership, read more books, joined a leadership group. I felt a sense of responsibility, a lack of knowledge and to be honest, I wasn’t even sure what the word leadership meant.
To feel more informed, I went to my default search place and googled “leadership quotes”. I read hundreds of them and wrote down the ones that resonated with me:
“I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you work to address the world’s deepest inequities, on how well you treat people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity” Bill Gates
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway” Eleanor Roosevelt
“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile” Vince Lombardi
What I found is that there were a bunch of quotes on leadership that I didn’t like, the ones that implied leadership was to do with taking control, or succeeding in your career, or pushing people over to get to the top, and most of those I ignored. Then there were a bunch that I did like, those that implied leadership came from the heart, was for the greater good and wasn’t something you had to be born with.
I thought about leaders in the world that I looked up to, who I aspired to be more like, and what I could learn from them to help improve my own leadership skills. I’m grateful that I’ve managed to meet several inspiring leaders including Sir Richard Branson and Helen Clark who break the mould and ensure world issues are as much a part of their leadership as business issues.
So it got me thinking, leadership really is a personal thing to us all. It’s hard to define, but I suggest thinking about what it means to you, then writing down a sentence that you can reflect on to ensure you know the direction that you are navigating others towards.
It took me a while to come up with a statement that defined leadership to me and the way I wanted to live my life, but eventually I decided on this:
Look around you, are there people following, are people coming to you for guidance or advice? If so, then you are a leader, it’s a powerful position so make sure you know what that word means to you.