Monday, 11 September 2017

The Leader in Me

The Leader in Me
It was the Summer of 1984. As CEO of my own airline, I was in my element organising staff and giving directions. My mother, on the other hand cringed as she watched out the kitchen window. I was only 8 years old bossing the neighbourhood kids around.

Leadership and management have always been my passion. My desire to be in charge as an 8 year old, would guide my career towards a Degree in Management and later a Masters in Communications. I followed that goal until I reached the working world and began to consider that I might not “have what it takes”. I wasn’t comfortable speaking up at staff meetings, I didn’t interrupt to get my opinion heard, I found it difficult to challenge management, colleagues, and even my own employees. I let others more vocal than myself tell me what to do and say. I was sensitive, took things personally and questioned my decisions. I found conflict very upsetting. I was an overthinker and it caused me stress.
I retreated from the working world, grateful for an opportunity to be a stay at home mother where I could manage my own schedule, have time away from the noise of corporate life and pursue another passion, raising my children. I later decided to open up my own business unaware that this would prove to be my most challenging experience yet. A business owner with employees who are motivated and passionate about their job will be continually challenged to stand behind decisions, to effectively communicate the vision for the business, to manage conflict and build a culture strong enough to create a sustainable business. I was naïve as I began that journey. However, I am grateful, as it pushed me to the limit, pushed me to find out how I could be the leader I wanted and knew I could be, pushed me to find my voice.

I found that voice when I began to understand that I was an introvert. I knew I was the quiet student in school, shy in large social gatherings, preferred in depth conversations rather than social chat, and was more comfortable in small groups. But what I didn’t know was that it was okay to be all those things, the enlightened moment being when I realised it wasn’t a failing, it was who I was. The most amazing revelation, I could still be an effective leader. I began to do what I do best, I connected on a personal level with employees, focused on building strong relationships. Leading a team doesn’t have to mean shouting louder, it means stopping, listening and understanding. I used my skills as a thinker to demonstrate I was an effective decision maker guided by not only analytical thinking but good intuition (introverts are good at going within). I managed stress by taking the time out for solitude when I needed it. I was good at sales because I could understand others, see their perspective and explain why we do our business not just what we do. Simon Sinek highlighted the importance of this in his book ‘Start with Why’. I was good at building relationships with customers because I connected on a personal level.

My most important lesson; to be true to myself. Now, I dedicate myself to supporting others in their own self-awareness journey and maximising their skill set to find their inner voice. Gandhi, one of the worlds’ most well-known introverted leaders said it best, ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world’. 

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