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Why did you become a leader?

Have you ever asked yourself why? Most people say they ‘just sort of fell into it’ or it comes as an outcome of doing well at work, but there may be other reasons that made you choose to lead.

I’ve held leadership positions almost all of my adult life; from leading small working groups, to very large teams across multiple countries and leading small groups of less than 10 volunteers and large groups of more than 1,500. I take the lead easily, sometimes too easily and mostly feel confident doing so or sometimes just say yes before I have time to over-think it. Over the past few weeks, I have been doing some reflective work with a colleague and she asked me what sounds like a really simple question…What drives you to take on these roles? It was a great question and really got me thinking about the why and even when it started.

As someone who spent most of her childhood moving from place to place; school to school and struggling to fit in, I can reflect back and now see why I took on leadership roles even from an early age; when I didn’t know the rules to follow or the people with influence, I could either make myself small and not engage or get involved with as much as possible.

I’m not naturally someone who says to the world ‘hey everyone look at me’ in fact quite the opposite but I think I unconsciously realised early on that we are naturally looking for others to lead, so like in my situation, if you don’t fit in and don’t know anyone, the best way for me to embed myself was to get involved, take on responsibility and be part of the decision making and looking back I think this need to fit in, feel connected and part of a community has been my key driver towards taking on leadership roles.

This willingness to take the lead is mostly good; I’m happy to be stand at the front of most crowds and talk or present, I am decisive when a decision needs to be made, comfortable with delegation, passionate about developing others, brave enough to push myself out of my comfort zone (sometimes with a little encouragement) and try things that haven’t been tried before, I want to make things better if I can, I’m mostly consistent, definitely authentic and almost always see the good in people.

But of course, there are consequences too.

I want to get involved in lots of things, so I can have a tendency to stretch myself too thin and that sometimes means my boundaries become blurred and my work life rhythm gets out of sync. When that happens, I have found strategies to identify it and deal with it; no-one really benefits from an exhausted and over-whelmed leader.

You can’t please all of the people all of the time and being a leader means that people will have an opinion about you and will be quite happy to tell you (or other people behind your back) that they think you are doing a rubbish job and, thankfully sometimes when you are doing a good job too, so you need to be resilient and acknowledge that not everyone will like you. That is a really tough one, it’s not a nice feeling to know that people might not like you or what you are trying to achieve even if it’s the best thing in the wider context and it can be hard not to take it personally, but again having strategies to deal with that is important.

I take leadership seriously because it matters to me and it matters to the people you lead. Leadership comes with the responsibility to create a climate and structure that supports connection and community and empowers and nurtures others but must be done within your own clearly defined boundaries so you get a have a life that’s more than ‘just’ work, and that means the people you lead will do the same.

What made you take on a leadership role or inspires you to want to be a leader?


I'm Leah

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