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This week, I thought I’d share an essential principle in leading yourself and others. And that is believing in people.

This simple idea has the power to transform your relationship to yourself and the world.

Our world has a leadership paradigm whereby a few lead, and most can’t. We’ve internalised what leadership looks like to such a degree that believing in our own ability to change and impact our work, our organisation and our life feels foreign.

Many of us feel we can’t lead, serve, contribute, or make a difference in the way we would like to. No matter the depth of our longing, we shrink our magnificence to suit an old narrative around what and who is a leader. We don’t truly believe we can lead, just as we are.

On the flip side, some people think they alone have the capacity to lead – and that other people don’t. The mindset of ‘its easier to do this myself’ is an example of this. Believing you are the only one who can close the sale, or lead the team is exhausting – and also not true! It leaves you over burdened, and resenting, keeping your circle of influence tighter and tighter.

Both these ways of being – not believing in yourself, and not believing in others – are symptoms of this old paradigm of leadership. However, in spite of of our flaws and our humanity, we are enough. We have what it takes. We can lead and we can live bigger lives.

To start believing in people, look for examples of when you or someone else rose to the challenge despite feelings of inadequacy. For myself, in my early 20’s I was asked to run the community engagement side of a Federal senate election campaign. I knew nothing about how to do this and felt woefully unprepared. But I said yes because I believed in the candidate, I knew someone had to do it, and because I had people around me who believed I could. I lived into their faith in me as I successfully navigated this new edge of leadership.

I’ve also seen the power of belief play out in villages the world over. Non literate women in rural India or Ethiopia could not imagine themselves as leaders. Surely it was the men, or the aid organisation who would lead – not them! Yet having the profound realisation that they could lead – just as they are – was the first step that made all their subsequent actions to end hunger possible.

This short video I made expands on this, and why believing in ourselves and each other is a leadership act.

As a final thought, by believing in people we widen our capacity to make the change we want to see. We influence. We start to have a say in how things go.

As Rainer Maria Rilke writes:

I live my life in widening circles
That reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
But I give myself to it.

(Book of Hours, 1 2)
Translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrow

Go widen your leadership circle by believing in people!