What does it mean to be a leader? This is a question I have been asking myself repeatedly over the past few weeks. The 2016 presidential election is but a few weeks away and I am left feeling confused, disgusted, and outright angry at what has been demonstrated as leadership. If I am honest, I feel embarrassed to be a citizen of a country that is most certainly causing many eyes to roll and jokes to be made.
We are better than this.
As I continue to grow, fall down, pick myself back up, and evolve as a leader, I am constantly exploring what the word means to me and how I can embody that meaning from a grounded and heart-centered place. I come back time and time again to the same process — a process that is not weighted or influenced by that which is outside of me, but rather by that which lives deep inside of me. It’s about self-inquiry, self-reflection, self-accountability, and self-responsibility. It’s a process that asks me to drop to my knees, to stretch, to get uncomfortable, to ask more of myself. It’s a process that in times like these, we uncompromisingly appoint ourselves to undergo because we have no choice but to stand firmly in our own leadership.
Whether you are a butcher, baker, or a candlestick maker — you are a leader. And the world needs as many honest, honourable, and integrity-filled leaders as it can get right now.
Here are my six strategies for stepping firmly into your own embodied leadership. I invite you to get comfy with a notebook, pen, and cup of warm tea and walk yourself through this process step-by-step.
1. Identify Your Value System
What matters most to you? Where do you feel unwilling to compromise? Your integrity? Loyalty? Ambition? Transparency? Your values are the foundational parts of yourself that guide your behaviours, choices, and actions. When these are in alignment and you are living your values, you feel at peace inside of yourself. You are operating not from your head or your gut, but from your heart. You are discerning in your decisions and steadfast in your commitments. Not only does it feel good inside of yourself, it is overwhelmingly obvious to the outside world that you’ve got something groovy going on.
2. Acknowledge and Understand What Makes You, You
I hope this step doesn’t scare you, because this one takes a little bit of work, as it is an ongoing unfolding process. Although many of us know parts of ourselves, we also have blind spots. Part of stepping into your leadership is to see and understand all of yourself: the good, the bad, and the ugly. For me, the most helpful resource I have found is the Enneagram. This highly evolved personality typing system helps you to better understand your strengths, your stressors, your fears, your areas for growth, and your opportunities to develop. Using this system, you can become clearer on who you are, while learning how other people operate in the world. This information can be unbelievably helpful when learning how to be mindful and aware as a leader.
As an Enneagram Type 2, the Healer, I am well-versed in knowing that my superpower is my ability to be compassionate, empathetic, and helpful, but I also lose my power and can become insecure when I do not feel needed. This does not make me weak or invaluable as a leader, but rather pushes me to rise up and push my edges whenever I experience this feeling so that I can meet my own boundless potential.
3. Cultivate a Network of Mentors
Want to know something crazy? You don’t know everything and you can’t do it all on your own. I know how disappointing this may sound, but let me tell you something: It’s a damn godsend! Not needing to know it all or have all of the answers gives you space to be vulnerable, approachable, real, and ever-changing. A network of mentors helps you to not feel alone when you are up against the wall and aren’t quite sure how to navigate your next steps.
Over the past few years I have worked hard to create my network of mentors. Currently, my network consists of one spiritual mentor and two professional mentors. Oh, and I also have a therapist. That’s right, I have four older, wiser, more evolved humans in my life that I can regularly call upon when in need. And they aren’t my friends. I don’t call them to gab, or simply catch up. I call them when I need to get in deep and unpack some serious personal, professional, or spiritual shit. This wolf pack is a group of individuals who have been around the sun once or twice and take their role as a mentor seriously.
If you are feeling lost or misguided in your leadership, I greatly encourage you to reach out to people who inspire you and are living and leading lives that you admire. Don’t be shy. Don’t hold back. Be willing to pay a bit of money for it. Be willing to be rejected. But most of all, be willing to ask.
4. Act from Authenticity
A few months back I wrote an article about my 5 Tips on Being Genuine. It almost makes me laugh to think that we need to be reminded to be authentic in our actions. However, the truth is that we have become used to cropping our lives into a series of photographs, 140 characters, or neat blog entries and Facebook posts. We have become buttoned up, edited, and the image of perfection.
So, let me show you my leadership by revealing some of my imperfections.
I often have no idea what I’m doing. I felt sad for almost all of last week and I couldn’t totally put my finger on why or what to do other than get lots of sleep, exercise, and eat well. I have lots of little blonde hairs on my upper lip that I pluck when I remember. Sometimes I watch TV on my computer in bed. Other times I eat peanut butter toast and scrambled eggs for dinner when I feel too wiped out to cook. I’ve been called bossy. My boyfriend and I fight. I can get anxious when work is slow.
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Writing these words, I can feel my own power grow. I’m not hiding anything. I’m not putting on a face or trying to be put together; I’m just being human. And whenever I read or watch someone else show me their messiness, I feel their power and their leadership. Being human is sexy. Show the world what you’re working with.
5. Constantly Work on Your Communication Skills
Let me repeat this one: CONSTANTLY WORK ON YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS. Communication is a basic life skill and your ability to communicate largely determines your happiness. When you communicate effectively, you make and keep friends. You are valued at work. Your family respects and trusts you. Your needs get met. When you communicate effectively, people listen and hear you, and you learn how to listen to and hear other people. This is when magic happens.
Strong, compassionate communication is something that is learned; you’re not born with it. If you are looking for resources on how to better communicate, I highly recommend the books Messages: The Communication Skills Book by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning and Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg. Additionally, be open to uncovering the underlying reasons of why you react or feel triggered (another blog post coming soon on that) by certain types of communication as well as receiving feedback from others on ways that you communicate well and areas for growth.
6. Commit Yourself to Lifelong Learning
Whether you are a CEO at a company, a full-time parent, a caretaker, just starting out your career, or saving the world, you are a leader. And any truly great leader is always learning. Leaders are strengthening their strengths, finding opportunity in their obstacles, and discovering new ways to be the best versions of themselves. Whether it is a book, workshop, therapy session, class, or travel experience, commit yourself to a lifelong learning process and you will forever feel empowered in your leadership.
We are currently witnessing a national crisis, where the proposed future leaders of our country are being caught in webs of lies, immoral behaviours, cruel words, disrespectful communication, and dishonourable action. I know it’s easy to sit here, pointing fingers and placing blame.
Instead, I am asking you to rise up and embrace your own, unique, and powerful leadership so that we can all come together, one by one, and stand up for what we believe in. Truth. Peace. Integrity. Compassion. Equality. Loyalty. Honesty. And Love.
If you are doing it right, you will feel like you are revealing too much.
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