Leadership. It’s this complex buzz word that’s thrown around in business meetings, job applications and by motivational speakers. But what does it really mean? Surely it’s more than some confusing words on a resume?
Yes Mr. Trump, “leadership” is a real thing, and it’s a really freakin awesome and empowering thing. Being a leader or having leadership qualities isn’t a finished product or end result. I guess that’s what I used to think. Growing up, I’d draw inspiration from people I admired and wanted to be like. Looking at their success as a polished, final piece of art. Motivational speakers will always talk about their ‘journey’ their ‘failures’ and ‘setbacks.’ Sure, these mistakes are all part of the journey, but they’ll always finish with a classic one liner of ‘and you can do this too.’ And I’d be sitting there thinking… how?! Tell me how!
I think the concept of being a leader needs to change. Being a leader doesn’t inherently mean you’ve ‘made it.’ But instead it means your figuring it out and making it work for you. There’s no secret formula, no ‘how to’, no road map… the best place to begin is way out of your comfort zone, without a road map.
One thing I’m extremely passionate about is travel. Not only is it incredible to see the sites of the world, but I get such a buzz out of meeting new people from all walks of life with all kinds of incredibly unique experiences. I love trying new food, wandering new streets, learning new languages, listening to stories and relishing in history. I’m extremely lucky to have been able to travel quite extensively around the world. France, England, Poland, China, Italy, Germany, Spain, Iceland, Canada and America to name a few. But the place that challenged me the most was my recent trip to Mexico (you can read more about my trip to Mexico here).
It was the first time I’d ever been somewhere with such poverty and inequality. Mexico has the highs of the highs and the lowest of lows, which in itself is such a hard task being somewhere with such contrast and flavour. I was there studying immigration and had the incredible experience of meeting refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from all over Central America. Listening to their stories was incredibly heart breaking. But instead of feeling pity for these people, I felt motivated. I had just formed a genuine connection with these people who opened up and shared with me some of the hardest struggles of their life. I was so inspired by what they had overcome, the immense strength they possessed and beautiful way they looked at life.
These people are in no way close to the standard definition of successful, or the definition of a leader. And I’m sure they wouldn’t accept that title anyway. But that’s who true leaders are. They are people who are humble, determined, driven, considerate, thoughtful, have integrity, humility and courage. True leaders inspire others to self reflect and challenge them to make life better. After my encounter with these people, I’ve never felt more out of my comfort zone, lost and confused but I’ve also never felt more motivated to make a difference and pursue my goals and dreams.
To me, leadership means being unapologetically yourself. Possessing self confidence, backing yourself and being your own biggest fan. How can you expect others to believe in you if you don’t? Leadership means networking and teamwork. No great leader ever made it to where they were without the epic behind the scenes work of their network of people that believed in them and helped them out along the way. It means taking risks and learning from your mistakes when those risks don’t turn out. To me, leadership is about taking control of your life, what you want to get out of it and making a positive difference.
You shouldn’t aim to be a leader. Just aim to be yourself. You never know who you’ll inspire along the way.