By Matt Hearnden
It seems we are being suffocated by the belief that “leader” is not a role, but the only noble thing to do with your life. Perhaps our struggle is not from a lack of success, but a cripplingly specific idea of what that must look like.
“I knew I had to do something. As much as I’d try to rouse my friends and my teammates and everybody in the club, I knew I had to be the leader.” That’s something I’ve written in a post I haven’t published yet. And, reading that back, I doubt I ever will. “I knew I had to be the leader.”
I had to be the leader?
It sounds like egotism, but this is how we were raised. We were cheered on to lead. It’s like if we’re not pioneering some new wave of thought or displaying superiority over all our peers, we aren’t doing anything at all. We grow up believing: “I am only as good as I am better than someone else.”
I’ve rarely considered the implications: what does believing that I should be a leader say of how I think of the people around me? Do I not think them capable?
We’ve lost sight of the fact that a leader is one of many roles that work together. There are many personality archetypes, and this is only one of them. There are pros, cons, strengths, weaknesses, benefits and downfalls to wanting to lead. The same as any other.
We’re high on the idea of being a “leader,” as though rising to some god-like state of creative entrepreneurship will make us happy – being minimal, focused, hyper-productive, “big vision” people – as opposed to diving into the nitty gritty of what we’re actually called to.
I don’t know if I want to be a “leader” again. I’ve enjoyed it in the past. But for what reason? That’s another thing we so rarely consider: not whether or not we feel happy. But why.
So I don’t know if I’d want to be a leader. Maybe I never knew in the first place. I used to hate saying “I don’t know.” That’s another thing I thought I had to do: always know. I’d always thought of myself as “smart” and so if I didn’t know then what was I? Who was I?
Now I prefer to be curious. I’m much happier when I think “I’m curious” than when I think “I’m smart.” I’m more productive. I absorb more. When I’m curious is when going down the water vole hole is an adventure. When I’m smart is when I don’t want to in case there’s something I don’t know.
When I shift my language from what a defining trait makes me look like to others to what my defining trait makes me feel about myself… I feel better.
It lets me ask a few questions, too. Who am I to lead anyone? What do I honestly have to offer – other than a steroid shot to my ego? Who am I to help anyone get out of their own way? Who am I to hope people shine? Who am I to want people to be who they really are? Can I do this? Am I called to do this? Or do I just need to do this for myself?
I think that’s why I like writing. Because then I tell my stories and nothing less and nothing more and you can take what you want. You can learn something. You can learn nothing. You can be inspired. You can be bored. You can subscribe. You can stop reading. Your choice.
This isn’t about me thinking less of myself. This is about me thinking more of you.
Because aren’t you already the leader of your life? Don’t you already have your own permission? Don’t you already know what you want? Don’t you already know who you are?
How would the real you answer those questions?
Perhaps the fascination and fixation with leadership is a projection of the failings in the most intimate parts of our lives. Maybe we crave leadership, and those around us applaud it, because more than anything, what we want is to take the lead in our own lives. In our hearts. With our emotions. Through our thoughts. And when we do not have the discipline, or know-how, or will-power, we try to wrangle those things in the physical world.
We’re failing, you know.
Some days, taking the lead is accepting that you’re not a leader. It’s not being smart or interesting or attractive and being okay with yourself anyway.
That’s when you start commandeering your own life.
Not when you think you’ve begun to commandeer others’.
Images: Leo Hidalgo