I invite my students to begin the semester by writing about what would make this their Best Class Ever. You could think, I suppose about what could make this your best summer ever (need that be impossible?). Perhaps best ever “family summer,” or best ever “work summer.”
My class is, of course, on leadership, so no surprise many students wrote about becoming a leader. The two most common themes had to do with being comfortable leading with authority — many are graduating and see that they will soon be managing people — and with taking initiative and speaking out in class (interestingly 16 of 20 came out as introverts). Thus, the title: “how can you lead when you’re unsure?”
I was discussing it with Jen, and the point I made to her is that at bottom, these students want to BE something, be SOMEBODY. As we get older, we accept so many limits, and some of that’s good. But sometimes we too want to change things, want to lead, and really want — what these kids want — to be credible, looked up to, maybe even admired. But they — and we — are afraid (however submerged that fear is) of how we will be treated. Will they be judged by their classmates? Will they be able to handle a classroom or “boss” people older than them? Or will we be put in our place if we keep trying to raise any important issue to our boss, congressman, spouse, parent?
So, how, I asked Jen. How do you do it, when hidden insecurities keep you from getting into the stadium, let alone, getting up to the plate?
My answer at 57 is stunningly simple: forget about me, and think about them. What do THEY need? A challenge? A word of encouragement? A dramatic example put on the table at the staff meeting? A gentle question? A foolish hope? A planned triple-barrel-three-person confrontation about a truth they’d rather not look at (with a solution or two as to how to tackle it)? If you’re unsure — and I’m still unsure a few times a day — look OUT, see what you think they need.
I think if we do that enough, people will thank us, people will respect us, and one day people we say we are leading. Pay attention to what they need and you’ll surely
Lead with your best self!