Who do you follow? We recently explored this question of leadership and followership with Bezos Scholars and Educators via a webinar, attempting to crack the code on how to lead effectively. It turns out that the key to effective leadership is surprisingly simple and yet it takes a lifetime to develop.
Back to the question -- think about it for a moment. You follow certain people and others you ignore. What do the ones you follow have in common?
First, separate out the people you obey from the people you follow. You may obey your boss or your teacher or your parent, but not really follow them. Perhaps you do what they ask out of fear or self-preservation. That's not true followership.
Now separate out the ones you do things for because they are your friends. You likely don't follow these people, per se, but you serve them, spend time with them, and enjoy being around them.
Who's left? Who do you really follow? My guess is that the people you follow have a few things in common:
Notice in this list, which is not at all exhaustive, that you don't see things like "they are good communicators" or "they are master project planners" or "they are skilled technicians." You also don't see many traits or attributes like "bold" or "charismatic" or "outgoing." These things may be true for some, but perhaps not all. They are not essential for leadership.
No, more than likely they are simply good at being human. Why? Because we follow humans. Leadership is 90% who you are, and 10% what you do. "Who you are" includes your purpose, values, strengths, weaknesses, hopes, aspirations, and fears. It's the sum total of your true self -- your identity.
The more true you are to yourself, the greater your capacity to influence, motivate, and lead.
The beauty of authentic leadership is that anyone can do it, as long as you are willing to do the hard work of getting clear about who you are.
Focus first on who you are and the rest will follow.
DylanHess. 2017 Bezos Scholar, shares thoughts on the authentic leadership webinar and how he plans to use what he learned.
Dustin Peterson recently talked to the 2017 Bezos Scholars Cohort about authentic leadership and how we can use it when planning our Local Ideas Festivals. One thing Dustin touched on in our webinar was how, as leaders, we cannot change who we are. The most effective leaders are purely themselves.
During the webinar, I learned that I am a transformative leader. If I try to be any other type of leader, I am no longer being myself, and people are less receptive to what I have to say because of the façade I have now created.
Towards the end of the webinar, Dustin Peterson challenged us to identify our purpose and our values. I have always believed my purpose is to give hope to those who don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, to use my story as means to inspire others. Values were a lot harder for me to figure out. I value growth and inspiration, as that is what ultimately creates a better world.
I spent thirty minutes a day for two weeks pondering these questions, and I’m still not positive those are my final answers. The challenge Dustin gave us has caused me to step back and look at my life with a new purpose. It has made me reflect how I am leading in student council, marching band, at work, and while working on my Local Ideas Festival. Simultaneously, it reminded me that being myself is the best and only way, I can change the world, one ripple at a time.