I grew up with a fairly external understanding of leadership.
Leaders were people who lived somewhere else. They did not live where I lived, in rural Wisconsin, or when I lived there. I read books about leaders in history, and thought it must have been wonderful to have lived in such exciting, challenging times.
I thought it would have been so great to be a leader and to have the answers to such important questions!
Grown ups would tell me stories about what things were like when they were kids, and it was exciting to think about how what they did then affected my life before I was even born. I decided that I would go where leaders were, that I would spend my life finding ways to make a difference.
I went to school, and went to work, and had a real challenge finding the leaders who knew the answers. I worked with people who had positions of responsibility, who were recognized as leaders, and they seemed to be as confused as I was. They would ask me for help, and I even had some of those positions myself.
It took me a long time, and lots of work, to recognize that leaders are not people who have the right answers. It took even more work to appreciate that having those answers is not really that helpful.
As I worked with leaders in many different places and many different roles, I slowly came to appreciate that leadership is much more about asking good questions than about finding the right answers.
Leadership is much more about being the person you are, the person you were meant to be, than about responding to particular problems. As I grow into my truest self, and connect with the deepest selves of the people around me, we draw the best from each other.
Leaders help us grow into our true selves.
Where would you like to go?
[Image by Jack Zalium]