85% of the time I am not a leader. This ranges from active participant to downright passive consumer. 15% of my time I lead.
I recently looked at the activities I consider myself a leader in, and a clear picture comes to mind. I lead because … I lead! There is just no other way there. I sometimes try to follow. I just can’t.
Now, we all read a lot about how great it feels to be a leader, how much we should strive for that. Not to follow the pack, to stand out, and so on. But for me this negates a truth I clearly feel. Leading, standing out, is – at least a lot of the time – not comfortable at all. You are alone, you get attacked, ridiculed, belittled, who-do-you-think-you-are’d. And that hurts. Plain and simple.
I am a rather shy person, carry a lot of shame, and hence am not very comfortable when I’m singled out. A lot of the times I wish to just blend in, maybe have my way here and there, but all in all, go with the flow. But in some fields, that’s jsut not possible. It makes me feel so horribly stupid and wrong, that I just have to listen to my own voice and go with that.
Here, I become a leader. Now leading sometimes feels great. The self-respect and sense of self-reliance and souvereignity it entails are hard to beat. They are also hard won.
And that brings me to my point: I guess most leaders are not leaders because they fancy it. They are leaders because the other avenues are not open to them. Leading is dangerous, makes you feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. That is precisely the reason so few people meke good leaders or wish to lead.
But then, who knows, I might just find that these sensations: vulnerability, shame, discomfort are really signs of strength in action. I might just be willing to give it a try.