Have you ever been asked to define a time that you were a leader? 

For some, this question is very intimidating. Leaders are typically perceived as the loudest voice in the room, the brightest personality in the group, or the person with the most expertise. It can be challenging to place a moment that you embodied the word if your character is not one that would typically identify with those traits. 

A Misconstrued Idea of Leading 

I used to somewhat resent the word leadership. The version of leadership to which I had subscribed thus far was an incomplete definition. I had been told that leaders were people who easily stood up and spoke their minds, were loud and authoritative and could take control of a situation. Being a shy, introverted child, I never believed I was a leader, or that I could ever grow to be one. I didn’t feel a need to make waves in my life. I barely wanted to make splashes.

As I matured, I pondered the meaning of leadership. It was not until recently that I realized that leadership was not about making waves and splashes. I realized it wasn’t about being the most capable, either, or about being the best teacher. It’s not even about doing something differently than others have done in the past.

Leadership is simply about making personal connections, in a small capacity, or at large. It’s about bridging a gap that otherwise would not have been ignited. 

Leadership is simply about making personal connections, in a small capacity, or at large. It’s about bridging a gap that otherwise would not have been ignited. 

I began to realize a commonality between the people who I identified as leaders throughout my life. While they all may have approached it differently, the glaring resemblance between them was the ability to draw a connection. Whether it be person-to-person, group-to-group, opinion-to-opinion, or idea-to-idea, all of the so-called ‘leaders’ in my life were able to relate two things, whether personally or not. 

Recognizing Your Ability to Lead

Have you ever been referred to as the ‘glue’ in your circle of peers? Perhaps you’ve been cited as someone who fosters a safe space for others. Maybe you have been praised for being a voice of reason or your ability to integrate all perspectives. 

What do all of these examples have in common? They have made a connection for either themselves or for others. The peer who leads by bringing together two different types of people illustrates an ability to connect personalities on some basis that the parties may not have seen otherwise. The close friend who makes you feel comfortable confiding in them leads by making a personal connection with you to say that they value your concerns, and in turn, you likely value their input. The voice of reason in your office leads by evaluating different concepts and conveys an outcome that connects all of the necessary variables. 

Leaders lift people up by inviting all contributions to a conversation and ensuring that each party feels genuinely heard. 

My favourite example of an effective leader is someone who makes every person they encounter feel important when they speak, from the quietest person in a group to the most outgoing. I noticed throughout my life that there were people who I truly felt special when speaking with; they listened to my thoughts and my words and asked further questions almost as if to say, “I appreciate your contribution.” Leaders are people who extend this opportunity to all different types of peers, regardless of that individual’s status. They possess the ability to make a connection between one’s lack of comfort and consequent lack of participation. Leaders lift people up by inviting all contributions to a conversation and ensuring that each party feels genuinely heard.

Redefining Leadership

Leadership is not exclusive to large-scale, world-changing transformations. Instead, being a leader is about making small choices in your daily life to serve others through connections.

Leadership is not exclusive to large-scale, world-changing transformations. Instead, being a leader is about making small choices in your daily life to serve others through connections.

Don’t get me wrong. There is certainly demand in our world for those who can stand up in front of a room and provide strong direction, whether at work, school, or a personal life dilemma. 

My point is simply that this is not the type of leadership that you should measure yourself against. People refrain from identifying themselves as leaders due to their skewed perception of what a leader is meant to be. This is not the sole definition of a leader. 

Leading feels good. It is all about lifting others up through connection in various ways. If you are someone who has made a connection to make someone feel valued, have helped resolve competing opinions, or any other form of bridging a gap in your own life or that of others, you are a leader. You should embrace it. 

 

Amelia Ceolin