Embrace Yourself As A Leader

Lately, I have been contemplating how leaders are identified as I think of our recently elected political leaders and my own friends and family who I see in leadership roles.  Webster’s Dictionary defines a leader as “a guiding or directing head.”  I have noticed that when we come together in a group for a specific purpose, whether in an office team or in a family, someone emerges as the leader. We all emerge as a leader at different times based on our personality, skills and experience and we continue to develop as leaders throughout our lifetime.

I believe that we first learned about leadership in the family.  We were raised in groups with parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, in-laws, and others who may have felt like family but had no blood relationship.  I’m often reminded of similar family dynamics in meetings I’ve attended with co-workers and feeling like it was a family at Sunday Dinner.  The CEO was like a parent.  The middle managers were like the older siblings and staff were the younger children at the table.  Everybody had a role and they knew the order in which they got to speak or who they listened to most intently.  They knew who put the meat on the table and who was responsible for cleaning everything up at the end.  The TV show “Blue Bloods” demonstrates this dynamic brilliantly.  In “Blue Bloods” there are four generations in conversation with each other with the older generations often serving as role models. The younger generations spark conflict as they try to find their own way and challenge the way things have “always been done.”

Remember the role that you took in your family?  You probably learned a lot about being a leader based on your sibling order, parental situation, and other family dynamics.

  • Were you the oldest who exercised some authority over the little ones?  Have you worked your way up in the firm to keep that “power seat?”
  • Did your parents expect more of you?  Have you always expected more of yourself?  Do you continue to have high expectations of yourself – and others - in your professional life?
  • Were you a child that got bragged about? Do you volunteer for various positions or committees and continue to look for ways to shine at work?
  • Were you the shy one?  Do you defer to more aggressive team players to make the major decisions?

No matter what our role or how we have developed as a leader, we can always learn new skills and behaviors to be better leaders.

For example, if you like to lead from a position of authority and dominance, you probably end up taking over tasks that could help you learn to trust team members and delegate more to others on the team.  If you avoid making decisions or defer to others, you could learn to collaborate to gain input from  the entire team and discover how to take risks to make decisions and lead your team through change.  To identify the changes you need to make to grow as a leader, follow my colleague Jennifer Wilson’s Four Simple, Yet Challenging Steps to Personal Growth.

We are all leading somewhere in our lives and we build on our leadership abilities that we learned in our families and have developed along the way in our professional lives.  How did you learn to be a leader?  What new skills or leadership behaviors have you identified to develop next in your leadership journey?   We all have experiences that others can benefit by hearing about, so please post a comment and share your insights!

With Warm Regards,