The other day, I attended an event about being an Inspired Leader, run by Nick Williams. It felt strange being there, at first. In the past, I would never have gone along to an event about leadership, because I didn’t believe that I was a leader. And if I had entertained thoughts of myself as a leader, I would have seen it as being “too big for my breeches” or having “ideas above my station”.
Plus, I’ve always thought there is an awful lot of responsibility attached to being a leader in the traditional sense, because you’re reponsible for telling people what to do – whereas I would rather encourage people to think for themselves. I believed leaders were people you should look up to, and put on a pedestal. People you could count on, in a crisis, to get the job done. People like Winston Churchill, who stepped into the breach when the country was in trouble.
But that’s only one type of leadership. When the UK was no longer under threat of war, there was no need for that sort of leader – which is why Churchill lost the election in 1945, shortly before the end of World War II. It may have seemed harsh at the time – ungrateful even. But people were looking for a different kind of leader – someone who could lead a country at peace.
So – what of today’s “leaders”? Who are they? Not the politicians, in my view. And not many of the “captains of industry” either. Most of them are too self-serving. They go into their “leadership” roles, not seeking to serve others, as a leader should, but to dominate.
Instead, the leaders of today are people like me and you. At least, as I’ve realised, that’s what’s needed. And modern leadership isn’t about telling people what to do, either – that’s very last year, don’t you know! Modern leadership is about inspiring others to take action. Showing them the way, by doing it yourself first. This is authentic leadership. Inspired leadership.
We each need to be leaders of our own lives. Instead of looking to someone else to tell us what to do, we can choose to live our lives in the way we would if we were being coached by an extraordinary individual who could see us as we truly are: magnificent, awesome human beings. If we could see ourselves as others see us (not as they might describe us through fearful and jealous eyes), then we would be able to step into our own power.
Power is another word I’ve felt uncomfortable with in the past, because I’ve always associated it with bullying – people trying to dominate someone else by abusing their power. But our real power is not something we use over other people – it’s something we can use with other people. You can see this whenever you get a really good team who are working together towards a common goal – a common agenda – where all ego is put to one side.
For it is ego that prevents us from seeing how great we are. The ego is a pernicious liar!
Leadership and Ego
I had always equated ego with inflating ourselves – making ourselves out to be better than we are. Shouting “look at how wonderful I am” when it’s either untrue or, at the very least, shows a lack of humility. I think that’s a very British point of view, though. We do love an underdog – the plucky person who survives against all the odds – but woe betide an underdog who becomes really successful or dares to show himself in his true, glorious colours out of context. Then, we say, he’s just being a “show-off”!
Something I hadn’t understood, before we discussed it in the leadership workshop, is that the ego is also responsible for deflating us – for putting us down, making us feel small and play small. When we attempt to break free from the shackles of our conditioning and step into our role as a leader, we feel fearful, in case we’re overstepping the mark. (What mark? Who put it there in the first place?!) We’re also afraid of what other people might think and say – negative comments that would reflect how we truly feel about ourselves.
We assume that this fear is protecting us from harm – which it is, in a way. After all, if you don’t shine your light, then there’s no danger of the flame being extinguished or the batteries running down!! However, if we can see this fear for what it really is – our ego talking – then we will know there is no real danger, and we will be able to step calmly into our power for good.
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My 30 day challenge runs from Monday 11th June 2012 until Tuesday 10th July 2012. If you’d like to follow my progress, and help to hold me accountable to my promise to write every day, you can follow my progress on Facebook and Twitter #30DWC.