Many people look to history for the benchmark of what makes a leader. They look at people like Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, who dedicated their existence and sacrificed their rights/freedoms and their lives for what they believed in. We admire these people, rightfully so, and believe that somehow they were super-human such that they did not experience the fear and self-doubt that us “mere mortals” experience regularly. That somehow they were in possession of something that separates them from us. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am in no way diminishing these leaders and change agents. They were indeed extraordinary and they accomplished extraordinary results. But what made them extraordinary was that they all experienced self-doubt, the internal voice that told them their dreams were too big to accomplish, the anger and frustration at the injustice and resistance that they encountered, and yet they persevered. They didn’t let that stop them because they were committed to something so much bigger than themselves. That is what made them extraordinary.
What I am discovering is that every human being regardless of age, gender, class or culture has the capacity to be a leader, a leader in their own lives. What I mean by that is the ability to take responsibility for their lives, knowing themselves to be someone who can achieve their goals in life. Someone who is committed to their goals and doesn’t let that voice of self-doubt stop them. Inside those characteristics, everyone can be a leader for themselves in their own lives. Now imaging what the world would look like if everyone operated from that context. People would not feel less than or inferior, there would be more collaboration and peace because there wouldn’t be this need for self-aggrandizement, nor to minimize others. People would never feel like they were victims of their circumstances, like they had no control over how their lives unfolded.
I’m not saying that it is easy to overcome those feelings of self-doubt and fear; it definitely takes something, yet it can be done. It also takes resilience to pick yourself up and regroup and continue to try over and over again. Both of these require practice. The more we practice not listening to our internal voice and the more we practice picking ourselves up, the easier it gets. Above all else, it requires a willingness to keep trying, keep getting your heartbroken, keep going until you fulfill on the goals that you are committed to achieving.
I’ll leave you with these questions: Where in your life are you not being a leader? What are those areas of life like for you? What would it be like if you declared that you were a leader and it was only going to go one way because you said so?