This year, as I ruminated about my experience of the program, the rough times kept coming up. My most recent post reflects my challenges with coordinating this program. It is hard work. As with any kind of development intervention, I don't always see that the students have made the connections I think they are supposed to be making. I don't always get the satisfaction of knowing that they have learned something. And yes, I would like to know that I have made a difference, and that doesn't always happen in the way I would like. More often than not, I feel taken for granted and, in some ways, abused by the very people I am trying to guide in the personal and professional development process. So when I thought about what to write, I wasn't concerned about writing a "feel good" speech. I decided I wanted to make sure that people would connect to some truth within themselves that they may not have accepted yet; something that would cause them to reflect on their leadership journey and integrate their personal identity with that process. What emerged was a list of leadership lessons, entitled, "If the Shoe Fits, Wear It".
- It’s really important to stay true to your word. When you are a leader, people want to know that you will do what you say you will do.
- With that said, don’t say yes to everything. You will find yourself overwhelmed and feeling incapable of doing it all. I can promise you that people who look like they can do it all have just learned the art of limiting themselves to what they know they can do. Those who actually attempt to do it all won’t be able to get it all done.
- Remember that a leader is, first and foremost, a servant. Leadership isn’t convenient. People will want to see you lead. Be where you say you will be, when you say you will be there. And understand that a title or a position means nothing. There are plenty of people walking around with titles who are not true leaders. True leaders understand that their role is to serve, to help others, and to provide the inspiration for lasting change.
- If you want to change the world, your community, or even your own home, you must begin with yourself. You cannot be a leader who isn’t willing to change or grow. Every person you meet and every circumstance you find yourself in are opportunities to grow. Do not close yourself off to those opportunities.
- On that note, be open. Be vulnerable. Sometimes being vulnerable will cause you to be hurt by others, but it also shows others your humanity. And we all need to see our leaders as humans so that we can aspire to leadership.
- Be genuine. Walk the talk. Don’t "fake it 'til you make it". You are on a leadership JOURNEY; therefore, it’s okay to fall, to make mistakes, to get back up and be better from the fall. People know when you aren’t genuine, and truthfully, people don’t respect people who aren’t authentic.
- Love. As the Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara once said, "At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a true revolutionary lacking this quality...We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force."
- And, don't forget my motto - "strive for excellence, not perfection". You'll never achieve perfection, but excellence is within your grasp.
Reflect on these leadership lessons, and you may find that some will resonate with you now, some at a later point in your own leadership and life journey. If the leadership shoe fits, wear it. Maybe it doesn't fit comfortably right now, but once you have tried it on, worn it a few times, and let it stretch, you may find yourself settling into your identity as a true leader.