“Leadership is not wielding authority — it is empowering people.” — Becky Brodin
I used to think I was a loser.
By high school caste-system standards, I was.
Teased by the boys, ousted by the mean girls, I flitted from one group of friends to the next, never having really found my “clique.” I wasn’t necessarily a follower, but I was definitely NOT a leader.
It wasn’t until senior year that I finally discovered my niche in the theatre department. (I might have sucked at being cool, but I was awesome at being dramatic). First semester, I was auditioning for the lead role in the upcoming school play, and I took a meeting with my acting teacher for some advice. He clearly sensed my 17-year old insecurities and point blank asked me:
“Jessica, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Why NOT you?”
I took his advice to heart and ended up getting the lead.
Ever since that moment, I have asked the question, “Why NOT me?” time and time again.
(Thanks, Mr. C.)
No one grants anyone permission to lead.
There is no moment of anointment. There is no one singular person who hands you the set of proverbial keys to leadership and gives you an almighty thumbs up.
Sure, there might be people along the way who shine a light on your strengths, or give you an opportunity to expand into your own potential, but the only person who can make you a leader is you.
Leadership is a sense of self.
A consciousness that comes from within.
A deep understanding that more power lies within the individual than ever before.
A single person can change an industry, start a war, disrupt a technology or heal a nation.
These people know that failure does not and will not define them.
Leaders have a crazy amount of faith in themselves.
Leaders have insurmountable self-worth.
Leadership is also uncomfortable.
Most people are afraid to challenge the status quo, speak in front of a crowd, present an original idea or choose the opposite of settling.
There is scarcity in leadership. This is good news for you.
Leaders are mission-minded. They don’t aim for leadership for the sake of ego and self-glorification, but for the sake of something bigger than themselves.
They do it for their Tribes.
Leaders aren’t truly leaders without a Tribe. Tribes are everywhere. Online, in your office space, at your fitness studio, your church, your networking groups, your coffee shop.
A Tribe Leader’s compensation is defined by how well their tribes thrive. It always starts there.
So, how do you become better at leading a Tribe? How do you become the person you always needed?
1. Have a ‘raison d’être.’
This French phrase means “the most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence.” When I started my first company, a digital women’s magazine, I wanted it to be a place where women could come to find the latest finds and greatest local places, yes, but also to feel seen. Remember my little high school story? How I never felt like I belonged anywhere? That was the impetus behind my entire business philosophy for that magazine, and it caught on like wildfire. I grew a Tribe of 100,000 women strong on this singular pillar of making women feel welcomed. Ask yourself what is your raison d’être? Make sure it really stands for something deep, emotional, meaningful and useful.
2. Don’t settle for status quo.
Mediocrity is not an option. Leaders ask big questions. Leaders are willing to be unpopular. Don’t keep quiet, don’t compromise, put a magnifying glass on what’s not working and be the person to offer the solution. “Good enough” is not acceptable.
3. Be accessible.
Leaders don’t stand behind a podium or on pedestals. Be a real person, human and approachable. Develop ways in which your Tribe can directly communicate with you, whether that’s “office hours” on a regular basis, a private Facebook group that you run, events and workshops that you host or even taking the time to respond to an email.
4. Wake up the lemurs.
Sure every Tribe Leader needs a Tribe who technically “follows” them. But don’t allow followers to follow for the sake of following, AKA — lemurs. You feel me? Many companies go out of their way to hire lemurs who showcase consistency and compliance. Don’t let your organization become a lemur factory. You know those people who are most comfortable following the rules and drawing only within the lines. These people are most likely within your Tribe, and that’s okay. Help them unveil their potential. Get them motivated, inspired and to LEAD by their own example. If you can empower your Tribe to become leaders themselves, then the Tribe expands exponentially.
5. Find a mentor.
Leaders need leaders, too. Hire experts. Connect. Stay inspired and hungry in your own pursuits. It’s imperative to keep learning from those who know more than you do or who can motivate you to bring messaging to your Tribe in in new and inventive ways.
6. Have fun.
Joy is infectious. People want to be around people who vibrate positive energy. Become a beacon for play along with productivity. People are looking to find more joy in their lives. Are you leading by example? Are you remembering to have fun? How can this translate to your own leadership style?
At the end of the day, whether you’ve been a follower your whole life or you feel you were born to lead, there’s a lesson to be learned. Ask yourself a single question: Why NOT me?
And then become the leader.
“Leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.” — Tom Peters