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The Hard Work of Leading

| | Leadership | 5 Comments

I have struggled in the past, feeling inadequate about my lack of resume-friendly leadership experience.

My leadership experiences — up until recently — all of the volunteer variety: I helped my husband start and lead a church. I led small groups of women in Bible studies. I organized and led (with others) a homeschool learning co-op. I served as our condo association’s president for several terms.

A couple of years ago, while teaching leadership online, I drove past our local Wendy’s restaurant. The sign outside announced openings for managerial staff. In the time it took me to drive past, I had this thought: Maybe I should apply. Maybe I need to throw myself into the trenches of “real” leadership to build my credibility and ability to lead others.

Photo credit Briles Takes Pictures…

I taught about leadership, wrote about leadership, and kept hidden this nagging thought that since I hadn’t held a paid position of leadership, I lacked credibility somehow as a leader. I compared myself to others with more impressive resumes and titles.

This contradiction: My strongly held conviction that we can each choose to lead. That leading is a choice we make, every day. That we have the power to make a difference, wherever we are, and that choosing to make a difference makes us leaders.

And, a nagging thought that I needed a position of leadership to be believed in as a leader. That title, position, and pay grade mattered more than a choice to lead.

It was all crazy-making.

As I am stepping up to lead myself — and now my growing team — I am, essentially, employing the same skills and practices I did as a volunteer leader.

The stakes seem a bit higher and the responsibility weightier. I guess I could have a title (if I wanted one; right now I call myself “business owner”). I get a paycheck (although I have to write myself a check.)

And those two facts — a title and getting paid to lead others — do not make me a leader.

It is really all about the choices.

I choose to lead. I choose to make a difference.

It’s hard work.

I am a leader.

Tell me something! How are you choosing to lead? What makes you a leader?

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About The Author

I am the owner of Weaving Influence and the leader of the Weaving Influence team. We help authors and thought leaders grow their online influence. I am also a wife and mom of three daughters, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, a good cup of coffee, and dark chocolate.

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What People Are Saying

Jeremy Lundmark   |   15 May 2012   |   Reply

Probably one of the most devastating realities is that many who have titles are not actually leaders.

It’s devastating because it produces a common perception about leadership that is incorrect. That incorrect perception is then reproduced as “non-leaders” with “leader titles” hire more leaders like themselves. Then, future generations look up to them as “leaders” when in fact they aren’t.

I can remember walking away from college with few of the accolades, and wondering why no one was watching.

It was at that point that I learned something similar to what you’ve pointed out here: They haven’t made an award for what I’m doing yet… Why? Because no one else has ever done it.

Real talent always breaks the mold and often creates a new one in the process. Real leaders are impacting the world everyday whether the world recognizes them today… or not. This is a great post! Thanks!

Carrie @ Busy Nothings   |   16 May 2012   |   Reply

Good food for thought, Becky. Thanks! I’ve been in many, MANY situations where a person was in a POSITION of leadership, but that hardly made them a LEADER. Leadership doesn’t come from a job title, it comes from the inside. There are folks who work day in and day out in some “little” job, but they are better leaders than the folks with “manager” or “CEO” after their name. While I believe that it is possible to learn ABOUT leadership, and skills can be developed, I also think that the best leaders are leaders because of natural talent and God given ability. But everyone has room to grow! :-)

David Greer   |   16 May 2012   |   Reply

Hi Becky,

Two examples of where you have clearly, to me, have been and are a leader. First, in your use, innovation, and examples of using social media to raise awareness and create connections. I have learned much from you and continue to use that knowledge every day.

Second, in your leadership of home schooling your girls. To move from parent to teacher of ones own children takes both courage and leadership. I speak as someone who also has been down that path.

I know there are manyi more examples of your leadership. You lead by doing. That is what counts.

Cheers,

David

Billy Delaney   |   22 May 2012   |   Reply

I too sought the validation of leadership from the idea that I needed business people to validate my leadership.
If you look at http://www.social-tango.com and my about page you will get an idea of who I am.
Your article here was very much something that I could relate too.
I have started three churches. One in Ireland, Belfast during the madness years. One in Cincinnati, and one in Akron. All are still going. The Cincinnati church existed, I came, lead and changed things. I left, work and job done.
Thanks for following me. I follow you now too

curtrice   |   27 May 2012   |   Reply

Great “self talk” here, Becky! I’m glad you skipped the Wendy’s option – although I’m sure you could have made a difference there, too!

As you move into more active leadership with the development of your own company, you’ll get the chance to try things out. Personally, I feel like my own leadership activity has been most meaningful when I’ve managed to create the circumstances in which everyone in the team has understanding of the vision, and when the vision emerges from a process involving everyone on the team.
You work through a “strategy” process together — that’s risky, because you already have a strategy, and you make hiring decisions based on that. But once you make those decisions, your organization has new resources, and they will have an impact, so it’s in your interest as business owner to carry out processes whereby their impact is channeled in directions you all understand and all want to pursue.
Good luck!