Are leaders born, or are they made? Yes, and Yes. Leaders are born, AND leaders are made, is my response. Some believe that only some of us are made to be leaders. I would argue, that we are ALL made to be leaders.
I had the privilege of working underAmy Erb, an amazing leader, at my last school, who was working to transform our school into a Leader In Me Lighthouse School. She threw up a bulletin board at the beginning of a school year, reminding her students and staff of this design for leadership with the saying displayed, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall – There’s a Leader in Us All.” The truth of this saying resonates with me, because I believe each one of us is a leader by design as we are leading our own lives. It’s from this position of self-empowerment, that I can encourage my students to take charge of their learning, as they rise up and lead their lives past their current circumstances. If left uncultivated, it’s like a seed unplanted, or planted and not watered. My friend, Don Sturm, described leadership as a seed that we water and nourish. Education, he likens, is the way of nurturing that seed for our students. This leaves me to wonder, am I keeping the weeds out of my classroom? Am I providing ample light to shine on the seeds I am charged to nurture? How can I move beyond being a watering can for my students, to setting my students up for success in an Artesian aquifer system, where they are not dependent on me for their sustenance? Educators, like parents, are trying to work ourselves out of a job. We want students to step into the highest level of leadership for themselves, as self-actualized humans. The only way they can get there, is if we help them find their leadership capacity to begin. This is my desire. I want every student to leave my classroom family believing in their leadership over their own life, which will change the world.
We don’t have to have a line of people following us or a microphone in our hand to be a leader. Sometimes leadership is just the quiet kindness in sitting next to a heart who felt lonely and invisible, as Trudy Ludwig described in The Invisible Boy. The motive for leadership should not be in getting others to follow us. The motive should be in leading our lives to pursue what is right for us, and realizing that the world will be better if we act beyond our own desire for comfort. This is what Jen Betton touched on when she wrote Hedgehog Needs a Hug.
To me, this looks like kindness. Kindness is not something we are born leading in, but its capacity IS within each of us. We are not born thinking of others, and leading with empathy, like a muscle, it must be trained, but nonetheless, the muscle is there. We all are capable of leading with more kindness, empathy, and helping others to find their voice. If I hold the notion that it’s someone else’s job to be a leader, and it’s someone else’s calling to call out the best in others, I will miss my impact on this world. Yes, some of us may have a greater level of influence, with a larger following, or a louder microphone, so to speak; this should not stop any of us from finding our own seed to nurture, and just watch as the buds of leadership bloom from our lives. How will you call out the leaders around you today?
Leading with love,