“If not me, who? If not now, when?”
Hillel the Elder
I am on a leadership mission. When I look around I see the big issues confronting us AND the innate human capacity to address them. But I also see human potential squandered, partly because we’ve bought into the myth of who (and who is not) a leader.
The definition of leadership needs to be broadened. It is too limiting, seemingly relating to only the chosen few. If we do not challenge this perspective we risk our future and what is important to us. Too many people look at who and what they think leadership is, and turn away, either believing it’s not for them, or because they don’t fit the mould.
Well I’m committed to breaking that mould and unleashing a global tsunami of unlikely leaders! Irrespective of how we look, where we’re from and what we do – the time is now for us to lead.
But first let’s look at what leadership is. For me, being a leader is having the ability to impact and influence. It’s not related to your job title. It’s not related to your education, age, or postcode. Some of the most incredible leaders I’ve ever met couldn’t read or write, relying on their thumbprint to sign their name. They faced harsh conditions, and huge obstacles. They were not anointed, but they lead.
Imagine the you are a woman in Bangladesh – no formal education, overlooked and underestimated. Kaya was one such woman. When I met her she was 18 – but she was married at 12 and had her first baby at 14. She’d never gone to school. Now it would be easy to write her off as ‘not leadership material’, but she had other ideas. She saw women making a difference in her village and she wanted in. At 18, she ran a campaign to stop all other child marriages in her community. Now that’s leadership!
Kaya is not an anomaly. We all have the ability, as unlikely as we might be, to lead. In my experience leading is a combination of the following:
- Believe in yourself that you have what it takes. Don’t wait to be asked, or for approval from the masses. That you are alive and want to make a difference is enough. Start from there.
- Cultivate a reason. It doesn’t have to be huge, but when you look at a leader you admire, they had a purpose and a reason. You need this because leading takes us out of our comfort zone. When you’re getting pushback and criticism, or you are confronted with just how indifferent the world is to you, your ‘why’ is your compass.
- Personal responsibility. We’ve all experienced how irritating it is when we hear a complaint followed by “someone should do something about that”. Well, we are each someone! Nothing happens without us taking responsibility. Too often this gets linked to blame or fault. The liberating thing about personal responsibility is that it is a choice. You choose to act. You choose to impact. You make the issue you are confronting your responsibility.
- Lead within the context of being a good human.
As I work with people and organisations globally, I see smart, courageous human beings who have so much to offer, and want to offer it. When this is unleashed, resourcefulness, energy and innovation multiplies. It’s like we are standing on top of a mountain of gold but we just can’t see it because we look out and around, instead on within.
So please, reframe who you see yourself to be. If there is something around you that should change – then take action!
“We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
J.K. Rowling, Harvard University Commencement speech.