What does it mean to be a leader? I’ve thought a lot about that question in the past few weeks.
I’ve recently been spending time volunteering with a few nonprofits, and I always find myself asking this question: Who is leading this group?
I’ve witnessed people who were abusive to others, who would just stand around and complain, and others who wanted to take charge to make sure things were getting done. People would follow the loudest, but that wasn’t always the correct person to follow.
As I continue to grow as a nonprofit leader, I have observed that the best works for me when it comes to me leading MY teams:
I’m honest: Honesty isn’t always pretty, but if people don’t know something is wrong they’ll never change. As a leader, you can’t blame the person for ignorant behavior, you must lead by example.
I know the strengths of my team: This is a tough one because one must really be good at communicating. A team member may think they are best with people, but in reality they are best organizing and planning. If that’s the case, put them where their strengths are. One must learn a new skill before they can use it. Passion for the cause is great, but passion for learning while helping the cause is even better. You don’t give someone a chainsaw if all they’ve ever used was a hand saw. One must learn to develop before being put into a situation that can do harm to others around them.
I’m prepared to upset some people: Not everyone is going to get me. Some people will think I’m too harsh, too raw, or not understanding. Believe me, I know I can be tough to get through sometimes, but that comes with my passion to help others. I’ve seen a lot of things in my life and I will not sugar coat things I see nor will I stand for abuse. I definitely won’t stand for people questioning my motives, for those who know me know that I stand for justice and will stand for those who feel they have no voice in this world. I take my work seriously; therefore, I may cross people the wrong way, but I also know that I cannot please everyone. There are over 5 billion people in this world, it is my mission to get through as many as possible to help their fellow neighbor.
I have empathy: Some people don’t know this, but I too have been homeless. Not in the sense one might think. I wasn’t living on the streets, but I also didn’t have a home to call my own. I lived on a friends couch for a month. Did I choose to live this way? Yes and no. I was living with someone who got into drugs and I could no longer live in that environment. Was I living in poverty, no. It was my choice to leave the situation for my own well being. I was ready to live in my car if I had to just to be away from the abusive situation. So, I feel for those who have been through tough times. That’s what empathy is. It’s the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing. I may not know exactly how they feel but I can be empathetic to their experience.
So I leave you with this to ponder: What makes you a good leader? Do you even know if you could or want to be a leader? Know your strengths, and then go share it with the world.
Be brave, be courageous, and ALWAYS stand up for what you believe in.