Reframing leadership

So often in my early career, I yearned to step into more “leadership” roles. I wanted to be the one to create the strategy, make the final decision, or speak at the front of the room. I had a sense that I was capable of more than I was being allowed. But as it is for most young professionals, these opportunities were few and far between.

As time went on, I did get more and more of those opportunities. And yet, a nagging feeling that my potential wasn’t being fully realized lingered. I was always looking for that next step up in the organizational food chain that would allow me to be the “leader” I knew I could be.

Now, the more people I coach, the more I realize this nagging feeling is pervasive in the workplace. Many of us are waiting for that opportunity to be the leader we know we can be.

Because of that, many of my clients ask me to help them get into higher authority roles. And we do work on that. We define what they most want. We identify concrete, strategic actions they can take to get there. We delve into what limiting beliefs might be standing in their way.

But first, I invite them into a new orientation to leadership, a new definition of what it means to be a “leader,” to make sure they are clear on what they truly want and how best to get it.

Most of us equate leadership with authority and decision-making. Whoever holds the authority and gets to make the decisions is the leader. To be a leader, we need status and power.

But to me, the essence of leadership isn’t about telling other people what to do or being at the front of the room or top of the org chart. Leadership is simply about being and revealing whoever you really are in service to your team and its mission. This could look a lot of different ways: voicing an unpopular opinion, finding ways to better tap into your passions and gifts, expressing an aspect of yourself that usually only comes out among friends and family, or courageously sharing something you are struggling with.

At its core, leadership is really about leading yourself to the fullest expression of your unique gifts and perspectives, regardless of your title and authority.

There’s a special kind of magic to this.

As I lead myself, I inherently lead others. I inspire and offer permission for others to be and reveal themselves too. In doing so, I play a crucial role in creating a culture of leadership. I end up creating the impact and influence I always yearned for.

And through practicing this new paradigm of leadership, that nagging feeling of disappointment and lack starts to fade away. I’m no longer waiting for permission to be the leader I know I can be. I just start doing it, right now, regardless of my title or authority. I realize that my leadership – and all the growth, fulfillment, and aliveness that comes with it – is my choice.

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