Most six year olds spend their time going to school and playing.
When I was six, I was organizing a club of first graders who loved The Jackson 5, even though I didn’t particularly like The Jackson 5. The kids in my class had a need and I was there to help guide it.
I’ve always been a person who sees opportunities to make a difference. In fact, I see possibilities most people miss. I’m highly sensitive so I see and feel multitudes (which I’ve learned is a superhero power). It’s part of my DNA.
It would be tempting to relate my seemingly innate compulsion to create change and do things differently to make better sense of the world as direct correlation to my father’s death when I was four, but it wouldn’t be 100% true. I was shaking things up from the minute I realized I could.
I am one of the people others describe as a “born leader,” and I believe EVERYONE is a born leader.
To lead is to have an influence or impact. Simply by existing, each individual, at every age and stage, is a leader.
Here’s what leadership looks like on me.
I was a kid who ran for student government positions not because I was assured the popular vote (I most certainly was not) but because I saw a way we could change the way we built our programs, systems and communities to be more inclusive and effective. I had ideas and was willing to do the work. I’ve led more teams and projects in my lifetime than I can count. I’m a person who steps up and says yes. I see needs and look for ways to mobilize people around a shared vision.
If you want change, you are a leader. If you care for others, you are a leader. If you love, you lead. If you breathe, you lead.
You have an impact. What you choose to do who you are defines your character, quality of life and happiness.
You are a leader. All the time. No matter what.
Leadership is as individual and unique as a fingerprint; your path probably does not look like mine.
Most people don’t know what their leadership looks like and can’t comprehend their impact; imagine trying to describe and feel the beauty of a painting but you’re inside the frame.
The magical qualities that define us at the core, the essence of our awesomeness, our US-ness, what makes me me and you you, can feel elusive.
When we don’t know our contribution, we have the tendency to fall asleep at the wheel of life. Believe me, I’ve been there. We either act as if what we do and who we are doesn’t matter or that it’s the only thing that matters. We search and seek outside ourselves to find an answer that lies within.
Let that sink in a minute.
You already have the answers and you don’t need an expensive car or a plethora of advanced degrees to tell you that you are important.
I learned most about myself is a leader at a time when I didn’t feel like one.
I fell into dark days of doubt during a forced leave of absence from work during my first pregnancy. My ability to work and achieve was a HUGE part of my identity, as I’m sure you can imagine for a person who’d been getting it done since childhood.
I anticipated being gone a few months, but the break, my professional hiatus, lasted five years.
The break broke me open.
Unable to do what I’d always done before (work, succeed, achieve), I began to take apart the puzzle of the person I thought I was to discover that I was so much more.
I was used to measuring success in promotions and pay raises; I traded those metrics for the experience of living, actually feeling alive, in the day to day, even when I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going. (Parenting will do that to you). I grew richer in relationships, self-awareness, joy, and a deeply grounded sense of purpose.
Without a boss to review me, I chose to evaluate myself.
What did I love? What did I need? Where did I thrive?
I listened to the wisdom of my soul and the love of the people around me, especially my children who were not at all impressed by my resume. I began to remember myself.
I am a person who helps make dreams come true. I challenge the status quo. I question assumptions. I believe, deeply and powerfully. I connect people to themselves and to their impact. I create experiences that ignite lives on fire.
I listen. I hold space. I serve with love. I tell stories. I offer hope. I am a guide.
Transitioning back into my professional life, I had an aha moment! Struggling between carpooling, commuting, and managing a job that met my needs for flexibility but not my desire to contribute in a meaningful way, I realized that I couldn’t be the only person who felt like the puzzle pieces of my life didn’t fit together. With everything I had and a dream of making a difference, I make a choice to help.
I continue to make that choice every day and my life continues to become more and more amazing.
More importantly, I am happy. I know who I am. I know what I’m here to do. I wake up with a sense of purpose and belonging because I know.
We all have moments when we recognize that the way things have been does not predict how they will always be. Leaders make things happen.
Leaders don’t know what’s next. If we knew what was next, we’d be followers.
It’s time for us to write and tell a new story of leadership. Once upon a time, you woke up and realized who you were and decided to make a difference. We start here and now every single day, every one of us, leading all the time.
Leaders create the future. It’s what you were born to do.