Monday, January 4, 2010

Leading from Within

In so many movies, there is a scene that I rarely see played out in real life: an individual spontaneously stands up in front of a group of people and delivers and impromptu rallying speech that inspires the crowd to significant, purposeful action. Whether they are going out and winning the competition or burning down the evil scientist's laboratory, their decisions are inspired by an individual voice. I'm sure that this kind of thing happens in reality in more subtle ways, whether for good or ill, but this kind of influence seems short-lived to me. It isn't what I think of as "leadership."

Even the word leadership has conjured for me certain mental images of a person who is at the front of a group of people. The leader marches purposefully forward, and the rest of the parade follows. The leader holds the torch high and people flock to him. Or even, the leader unveils the blueprint and a throng of people dash off to do their part. These are rather comical images to me right now, but they are caricatures of what I have been expecting of myself and others.

Various sources have been contributing to an evolving definition of leadership recently. What I have been reading and hearing from some other people reveals a definition of leadership that is slightly different from what mine had been. They suggest that a leader is the one who breaks from the crowd and heads off in a new direction with purpose, creating a path rather than traversing one that can be clearly seen. Sometimes, these definitions of a leader don't even make mention of who is following or where they come from, because ultimately it is about a path of personal meaning.

In many ways, I have gotten good at waiting. I have waited for the right opportunities, the right environment, the right number of supporters, or even the right quality of support. I have held back engaging 100% of my capability in the world, because I want to make sure that others are with me. I spend time and energy trying to figure out how to convince others about the value of what I am doing, when I could just be doing it. The waiting and holding back doesn't actually move me forward. And as valuable as it is to me to have other people's support, the primary motivation has to emerge from within my own being.

So I am looking at clear ways to redefine my sense of leadership in my decisions as I begin a new year. I am forging my own trail, and I'm trusting that the people who see value in what I am doing will be there with me. I want to engage others about what I am creating, and I want to connect with them about their journey as well. But I also acknowledge that doing it is more compelling than talking about it. And if I am committed to carrying out the personal journey that is most satisfying to me, I believe I already have all that I need to be on that path.

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