I changed my mind about being a leader ~20 years ago. Being identified as a leader is not a popular choice in Australia, especially for women of my generation. My impression of leaders was of big, forceful personalities, carrying huge loads of responsibility, who attracted large numbers of followers along with vocal detractors. Not really a feminine ideal, nor a match with my personality! However, a new understanding of different styles of leadership and the potential to lead for communal good, caused me to put my foot forward into that ring eventually.
Leadership, at its simplest, is having someone follow you. On a sports team, the leader can be identified as the one with the ‘ball’, who must show leadership at that moment by deciding who to pass it to next. Hence, the leadership is constantly changing and becomes a shared commodity. Parents lead their children until they are able to make their own wise decisions. There are many leadership styles, from the upfront, charismatic type we tend to think about first, to the leader in the midst who quietly invites, organises and guides others. This ‘Dorothy-style’ (Wizard of Oz) of leadership resonated with me. Fortunately, I am a part of the Uniting Church which practices a consensus style of leadership of inter-related councils and welcomes women’s leadership. (I suspect these two factors are related!) As one of the leaders of the Church now, I find I can make a greater impact for good, than if I had continued to deny my leadership qualities.
It is disappointing when leaders use the trust and power invested in them just for their own gain. It runs counter to the whole concept of good leadership, which is to help others be their best for the sake of our whole society and planet. However, it is understandable leaders may make poor choices when they are constantly criticised, feeling they are unappreciated and there is ‘no win’ for their efforts. The detractors have a place in keeping them accountable, but this needs to be balanced with thankfulness for those who have offered their skills to lead with integrity. Is there someone you could sincerely encourage with your thankfulness? Might you be a leader still in hiding, who can make a bigger contribution to the world? As always, I am happy to discuss it with you.
The articles here are currently written by Liam McKenna, Lane Cove Community Chaplain.