Women should not be afraid of or feel guilty about taking a leadership role--in their organization, in their community, in their own lives. What could you accomplish if you were leading your life instead of simply living your life?
1. Avoid the Imposter Factor: Fear that Others Will Find Out I'm Not Really a Leader
Ask others what they think of your leadership abilities. You'll be surprised at the positive response! You use leadership skills every day—managing your work group, getting the kids to school on time, supporting your favorite charity. Believe that you are a leader—your friends and colleagues already know you are.
2. Get Rid of the Guilt: I Don't Deserve to Be a Leader
Why not? Leaders aren't an alien species sent down to show us the way. They are everyday people like you and me. Think about a leader in your life—not someone famous, just someone you know that you'd follow anywhere. Do you think they thought they were a great leader? Do you think they knew that you'd be using them as an example of great leadership? Of course not.
3. Stop Looking for Leaders Who Look Like You
It's hard to strive for leadership when there are few examples that look like you. Katharine Graham saw no other women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies on her way to becoming the first. Madam C.J. Walker saw no other African-American women millionaires on her way to becoming the first. Sally Ride saw no other American women in space on her way to becoming the first. It certainly makes it more difficult to lead where no one like you has gone before, but it's not impossible…
4. What's So Special About You?
You don't have to be special to be a leader. You just have to have a passion to change something— that you still haven't made time to take that class you wanted to take; that your child's school won't have an art program next year; that women still don't receive equal pay for equal work. The issue may be large or small—it's the size of your passion that makes you a leader.
5. Realize that Leaders Don't Have to Make Sacrifices
Not if you have the right support system (see #8, below). Real leaders integrate their passion for change into their lives. The only thing you may have to sacrifice is your toleration of others' placing unreal or unfair demands on you.
6. It's OK to Focus on Small Issues, Instead of High Ideals
Someone once told me that one of the strongest leaders she knew was working on her local Little League board, trying to make the league run more efficiently and to inject more fun into the games. Leadership can be as big as moving a government to pass civil rights legislation; it can be as “small” as teaching a group of girls that they can be entrepreneurs if they choose to. As long as it's a high ideal for you, you can take a leadership role in making it happen.
7. Think of Your Self
Leaders are not totally selfless—in most cases their passion for change grows because they are personally connected to the issue. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is the leading organization funding research and treatment of pediatric AIDS. Elizabeth Glaser founded it after she discovered that she and her two children had become infected with HIV.
8. Asking for Help is OK
Oh really? Star athletes have coaches, elected officials have staff, great scientists have research assistants. Leaders cannot do what they do on their own; they know it's OK to ask for help.
9. You Don't Have to Influence the “Big” Stuff
If your passion is to change a small piece of your own world…go for it! Exercise your leadership muscle, and soon you'll have influenced a whole range of small stuff, which will add up to something big.
10. You Don't Have to Be Famous
I'm sure you can think of some great leaders that no one else has ever heard of—relatives, co-workers, teachers—people that you would follow anywhere. Great leadership doesn't start with being famous; it starts with leading your self to the brink of change in that one area you're passionate about. Then sticking with it to make that change happen!
About The Author
(c) 2004 Barbara Bellissimo. All rights reserved.
Barbara Bellissimo is on a mission to empower women to change their world. She works with business owners, executives, new graduates and women outside the workforce. Ms. Bellissimo works in partnership with her clients, supporting them to embrace their leadership qualities to design and create the life they truly want.
She's conducted workshops and presentations for many audiences, been quoted in Forbes and The New York Times, and has appeared on National Public Radio.
Prior to starting her coaching practice, Ms. Bellissimo spent nearly twenty years in high-technology marketing and management, and as an entrepreneur. She received her BS degree in Economics from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She currently lives her dream life on Martha's Vineyard with her family.
“Living your best life should make you happy, not become one more item on your to-do list…”
Visit Barbara online at http://www.seasonsofsuccess.com.