I do not know why I keep having to learn this lesson. You’d think it would stick by now.
Which lesson? Um…well, I know the pattern. Maybe I can’t articulate the lesson clearly yet.
Here’s the pattern. I come across a smart, visionary, idealistic individual who has values that pretty much line up with my values. This person is very articulate, directive and charismatic. I get curious, then engaged, then enthusiastic and suddenly I’m thinking something like “oooh, maybe they are MY leader. They seem to have so many answers, maybe I should follow them.”
Follow them where? Good question. I don’t mean on social media. I mean follow them by doing what they say to do, thinking what they say to think, believing that somehow, they’re the one who should be leading me. And I transform into a bit of a follower.
It’s not a great look on me. And every single frickin’ time I do, I am disappointed. I’m disappointed because whatever “it” is, it doesn’t fit for me. It isn’t “the answer”.
Why do I keep repeating this pattern? Am I a sucker for charisma? (maybe) Am I easily swayed? (nope) Do I have deeply hidden limiting beliefs about my own abilities? (maybe) Are there layers to the lesson? (probably)
But, I think the real reason is that I am seeking safety. If someone else says that they have the answers, they know the way, they’ve already done it, then its safer to follow them than it is to risk figuring things out for myself.
My latest disappointment – the one spurring this blog – had to do with leadership, conveniently, since that’s my coaching area of focus these days. I decided to follow someone – a wonderful soul – who is smart, articulate, visionary and charismatic. It started out great, but turned into another bloody* learning experience.
Here’s what I learned. Just because someone is smart, articulate, visionary and charismatic doesn’t mean that they are a good leader. It means they are smart, articulate, visionary and charismatic. I know that sounds like a smart-assed answer, but it isn’t meant to be. Those are really valuable attributes, and those people have a really important part to play. But…
…But leadership is different. Leadership requires so much more than vision, charisma and intelligence. At least good leadership does. It requires poise, trust and trustworthiness, transparency, responsibility, authenticity, generosity, confidence, collaboration, delegation, genuine caring, vulnerability and an openness to diverse ideas. It requires knowing your impact and your strengths. Oh, and knowing your weak areas and finding the right people to fill the gaps and listening to them. I talk about these – and more – in the Colors of Leadership***. Why don’t I listen more?
Okay, now I think I can articulate my lesson. My lesson is to be choosy. Situational Following. When I sing, I can follow the director (but still make occasional observations). When I cook, I can follow the recipe the first time, but I am totally free to experiment and improve on it going forward. Et cetera, et cetera.
So most of the time, I’m to be my own leader. I don’t need to keep looking elsewhere for safe guidance. As one pretty major player in the cosmos** reminded me, I’ve been given a life full of amazing experiences and lessons and it’s time I start taking responsibility for my own school of thoughts, beliefs and actions.
So yeah, my lesson is to take what is good and valuable and leave the rest – set it aside for someone else to come along and see if it’s useful for them.
In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!
Love and light,
Are you interested in being the leader you are meant to be? Send me an email and we can set up a time to talk: firstname.lastname@example.org
*instead of bloody, I was tempted by these other options: dumpster fire, ugly cry, hot mess, women tell all episode, goat fuck…
**the story is in the epilogue of my book, The Rainbow Onion
***Want a copy? Get it here. https://mailchi.mp/maggiehuffman.com/leaders0