There are certain positions in life that you cannot gain through promotions, ladder climbing, schmoozing or any other way besides earning on your own merit, and it must be awarded by your coworkers and peers, not your boss. The title of “Leader” is one of those positions. As the saying goes, if you have to tell everyone around you that you are a lady, you aren’t.
I will never forget the first time a peer exclaimed to me “you are such a people person!” I was stunned. I never considered myself a people person – in fact I felt I had always struggled in that department. It was a wonderful feeling that I had made enough progress that someone I trusted made that unsolicited declaration.
So how do we achieve the honorary title of leader? The answer is by serving others and a lot of very hard work. In the work of leading we are constantly challenged to behave as leaders first and individuals second or even third. It’s exhausting work and often isolating. Our reward is the trust that others put in us – the raw honesty that people put in front of us on a daily basis. We earn this trust with diligence and sacrifice each and every day.
In a discussion with a colleague recently, we were talking about how lonely it can be at the top. Always having to be “on” for your team. I have felt this loneliness myself, sometimes acutely. A trusting relationship as a leader is oddly close and distant at the same time. I have found that in many ways you are close like lifelong friends – even when apart for a time you pick up right where you left off. I know that if I ever needed anything I could call any time of night and they would be there for me, and I for them. This is somehow oddly different from a purely social relationship you have with a friend because you are unable to offload with someone from outside the team – it’s supposed to flow uphill right?
I am considering starting a leadership group for colleagues in leadership roles in my industry. Great leadership is hard to find – we need to nurture the great leaders we have so they can keep right on being fabulous!
Keep earning your stripes great leaders – you know you are making it when others honor you with describing you as leader, good leader, great leader, exceptional leader. It’s the ultimate gold star, and when awarded it feels great and will keep you earning more.