“Leadership” has different meanings to different people. There are tons of books, magazines, videos and personal accounts of the meaning of “leadership”, as well as several theories on leadership. “Leader” or “leadership” seems to be a buzzword for people seeking office and those serving in positions of authority. I have seen many campaign ads state “Proven Leadership or Leader” and I often wonder what that means or how it is defined for those that make these statements. Does serving as chair of a board or committee make a person a leader? Or is it the skills they bring to the table such as managing conflict, creating change, building great groups that work toward the same vision?
I know I have written about this in earlier articles but felt it is time to revisit and give a more personal perspective. I have facilitated and taught community leadership development for almost 20 years and my view on leadership has changed. Changed in the fact that I see leadership as something we do, not who we are. I know of several instances where someone serves in a position of authority (someone who is in a position with power) but they do not have the skills to exercise leadership. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are many, many people who hold positions of authority that exercise leadership very well. If you pay attention, you can see those that have the skills and those that do not. It is quite interesting to see those that use their positions to get what they want and those that skillfully work with those around them to get to their desired outcome.
I have had to change my behavior in order to think as a person who exercises leadership. Before, I wanted to be the person chairing the boards or committees so people would see my “proven leadership”. Honestly, I was running myself ragged trying to prove that I was a leader. Now I feel it is my actions and what I do with the skills that I have that will get the results I want. If that is serving my community by being involved in things that I enjoy, I would much rather make that choice. Does that make me a “leader”? I don’t know. I do know I work hard at exercising leadership in the groups that I participate in and I no longer have the desire to be called a “leader” but would rather be known as someone who exercises leadership. That also means I will continue to learn new skills and capacities, even if I think I know all there is to know, which is impossible.
Define what leadership means to you and seek new ideas, skills and tools to continue to build your capacities.
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