“There is something in you that you have to offer other people that is refreshing to them because it represents something that they don’t have. Finding your confidence in that is much more valuable than trying to compensate by pretending to be efficient in areas that you are not.
I find that observing the challenges of my children offers some very good insights into relationships and leadership. Recently, I discussed circumstances with my children that relate to expectations and how to play a leadership role. That led me to reflect on the Leadership Experience. Is the leadership experience something to be chased, or something to create on your own?
My daughter is in the midst of her freshman year at college. She has come upon some challenges that she did not expect. These challenges come in the form of rules and regulations at the school that, she perceives, limit her freedom. Her expectation of heading to college included the idea of real freedom: Freedom to make her own decisions, her own hours, and to manage her own behavior. This has also been amplified in the age of social media. She is handling it all in a thoughtful way, but she used a term that made me think. She used the term, “college experience.” As we have talked, I shared that the best college experience is not one that you chase, it is the one that you create on your own. Chasing the idea of the college experience will certainly end in disappointment, whereas, an experience that you create individually will be better and more personally rewarding. It will be more rewarding because it will reflect your strengths, interests, and values.
My son recently completed a sophomore sports season. As a sophomore, he had a season filled with achievement. He was fortunate to have good teammates. The seniors had their own, unique, way of leading of the group. They were energetic and focused on having fun. My son enjoyed his time with them. Heading into his junior season, he will be looked at as a leader of the group. He came home from the end of year banquet with some concerns. He mentioned that he could not possibly be as entertaining as the leaving seniors. Also, out of concern for the team and new members, he did not want to leave a void that would be filled by others to lead in what he phrased as, “an annoying way.” We talked about it. I told him that he should provide leadership in the way he does best. Currently, that is leading by example. Train hard, mix “business and pleasure” at practices, and check on and encourage those around you. Speak up when you need to speak up, but just do you, and all the while display care and encouragement for those around you. Create your own leadership experience.
I wrote about a similar experience I had as a young lieutenant in my article, Act Like You are In Charge, Then Deliver! I was on the command list and was challenged by what I observed around me. The leadership styles that I had observed being rewarded during my time in the unit, were unattractive and unattainable for me. I resisted the requests to take command because of it. The Battalion Commander eventually asked me, what was holding me back? After I told him, he said to me, “You don’t have to lead that way.” That may seem simple. But, to a young LT trying to find his way, it was eye-opening and empowering. I never forgot it, and it has served me well. So well, I share it with my kids and anyone who may need it to motivate them to step into a new leadership role.
I encourage the study of leadership through reading, training, and observing. I am a student myself. As new leadership roles arise, don’t let the apprehension over chasing a preconceived notion of leadership affect your confidence or enthusiasm. Don’t chase the leadership experience, create your own leadership experience. Work hard to be there for the group that you are leading in a way that represents your strengths, interests, and values. This will allow your own leadership qualities to shine and both you, and your group, will benefit from it.
Are comparisons and perceived expectations holding you back from taking a leadership role? Don’t think you have to achieve or chase a leadership experience, create your own based on your own values and strengths. I encourage you to lead! Your organization needs you.