The concept or idea of what it means to be a leader has developed in a strange way. When we talk about leadership in a generalized way, we almost forget that the people we consider leaders are human. We forget that the way they present themselves to the public might not be who they are, but this has somehow led to a stereotypical idea of what a leader should be. If I may say so, this idea we have created about what a leader should be is contradictory, cold and distant. Stereotypically speaking, a leader is someone outspoken, assertive, intelligent and calculative. That’s it. Of course, there are many more adjectives to describe a leader, but they mostly fall into this category that makes the person seem less human. How on earth did we create this idea of a leader? Why did we create this idea of a leader?
I have been told time and time again that certain qualities that I have need to be toned down. If I want to be a leader, I need to be more calculative. I need to be more assertive, but not bossy because people don’t like a bossy woman. I need to stop letting my emotions get in the way of my decisions, even though I don’t consider myself a very emotional person. I have been told that to be a leader I need to give up who I am and enter into this mould that has been created where there is only one way to be a leader.
Recently I took a leadership test and one of the leadership styles was empathy. For my entire life, everyone has told me that if I am too empathetic, or if I care too much and can’t approach situations with the appropriate amount of distance and in an analytical way, then I should just stop trying to do anything. Because it seemed that the only way to be a leader was to be objective, calculative and analytical – when I am none of that in real life, they are in no way my strong suits. No one ever encouraged me to take my qualities and my empathy and use it for good.
When my leadership style result was empathy, I was taken aback. Because for my entire life I have been told that that quality in me was never going to get me far and that I could never lead. Leading with your heart isn’t a bad thing, and it should be never be understood as such. There are times where we need our minds to think predominantly but leading with your heart is not a weakness. The ability to feel the pain and the suffering and understand the motives behind why people do things is a gift that the world needs more of.
What I have come to learn is that leadership isn’t about how well you can check off the boxes of a predetermined idea that has been cemented in our brains by society. Leadership is about leading as you are, with what you got and being vulnerable and having courage while doing so. I highly suggest you check out Brenee Brown for more information on leadership.
The strongest type of leader you can be is when you are leading with who you are, and not who you think you should be. Lead with your strengths, but also with your weaknesses. Lead with your heart and your emotions, but also your brain. Lead with who you are at your core and the impact you will have on others, and the examples you will set for those around you will be life changing for your community and the world. If you need some examples or inspiration turn to your local community organizations, your schoolteachers, your bosses, managers, parents, friends, and so many others! Turn to the people who are on the ground every day making sure that people are encouraged, that they are cared for and that they will excel in their individual lives. Those are the leaders we need more of in the world, not the ones who perpetuate this idea that you need to be a certain way to be a leader.