How many of you are completely comfortable calling yourself a leader? Put your hand up. I can still picture myself sitting in a room full of young leaders from across Canada at the NextGen sessions for the 2019 CCUA National Conference, and hesitating to put my hand up. This struck me as funny; at the time I was the vice chair of our emerging leaders group at my credit union, I was working to get a provincial young leaders group up and off the ground (yes this group, the Ontario Young Leaders) and here I was, not ready to confidently put up my hand. The session was being led by Drew Dudley, and he shared with us that he has asked this question many times and most often only a handful of people are willing to put up their hand and say that they’re a leader. Why is that?
Drew shared a reflection that has really stuck with me. He spoke about the way we are taught about leadership. Think back to when you learned about leadership. Likely, it was with examples of people who do extraordinary things – people who lead countries, CEOs, academics etc. This concept was instilled in us that leaders do big things, they change the world, they lead and inspire large numbers of people. However, most of us cannot create action at such a grand scale, and therefore we have a hard time calling ourselves leaders. Drew helped everyone in the room reflect on why we were so hesitant to call ourselves leaders and also guided us on how to appreciate and celebrate all the ways that we do lead.
As recently as last month, I found myself in conversations where my peers were once again struggling with the idea of leadership and calling themselves a leader. It was clear leadership was a goal they wanted to achieve, but I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, how will they know when they get there? Are they putting the goal post as a specific job title, or having a certain number of direct reports? What will make them feel like a leader?
Guess what?! We’re already there! We are all leaders.
Whether you know it or not, you are leading in your personal life (family and friends), and your work life (colleagues). Who you are, how you choose to show up, and how you make people feel, all reflect your leadership. I don’t pretend to be an expert on this. Much of what I am writing about is what I have learned from books, articles, and others.
I highly recommend purchasing Drew’s book, This Is Day One: A Practical Guide to Leadership That Matters. What I appreciate the most about this book is how it challenges you to define the leader you are today and the leader you aspire to be in the future, and then guides you on the most important part – how to intentionally fill that gap and work towards being the leader you want to be. The first step in your leadership journey is to recognize that you are a leader; today, right now because you influence the people around you.
Now, say it out loud, “I AM A LEADER!”
With that mindset activated, ask yourself:
- What kind of a leader do you want to be and how will you intentionally get there?
- Who has been influential in your life? Do you consider them a leader?