lately, i've been thinking about my natural tendency to fly under the radar while leading.
because it's the essence of who i am, i've never thought of myself as leading small by providing leadership only in areas in which i feel confident. or that my values while leading are to provide inspiration and helpful solutions, while remaining humble and never too showy.
since i was an itty-bitty, i led. my parents love to tell the story of me as a 5 year-old bossing them around, while my granpda watched knowingly and commented -- you'll be working for her one day. i usually chalk this story up to one of those silly stories that families tell over-and-over-and-over about funny things you did as a kid that were hilar-ious when you were tiny but now that you're a professional adult are less funny and more hauntingly, scarily accurate.
leading has poured naturally out of me my whole life. for me, it's like breathing. most times i'm unaware it's happening. i lead well and feel most in harmony with who i am when i'm not trying too hard, not worried about others' opinions and judgments. when i see a need, use my gifts, and lead.
but, when i'm insecure, worried about my image, and listening to the critical voices in my head, i lead poorly. i try to control the situation, insert myself where i'm not needed, second guess my decisions, and on and on. when i lead from this place, my leadership fails to solve problems, serves as unhelpful and makes me feel really bad about myself.
so, i've been thinking about all of this lately, trying to make some progress in my insecurities, and be the best, most authentic leader i can be. to lead where i see need and can offer solutions.
in her famous TED talk, brene brown says she came to a point in her career in which she realized that she had engineered staying small. staying right under the radar. that she came to understand that vulnerability is not weakness; it's emotional risk, exposure, and our most accurate measurement of courage. we must let ourselves be seen.
recently, i led a meeting. leading meetings is my favorite hobby. if someone asked me to lead a meeting on gasoline, i'd jump in a heartbeat. i'd put an agenda together, and invite the right people, and bring snacks, and pick up a new outfit, and not sleep the night before.
but something about leading this particular meeting last month made me nervous. really nervous, and scared, and insecure. and, i wasn't even leading a meeting about gasoline. but, i was leading a group to accomplish a creative task that was outside my usual role.
leading up to the meeting and after the meeting, i had brene brown's words in mind -- i've engineered my career to stay small. to stay under the radar. to keep to what i know. to stay leading within what's known and safe. my worst fear leading up to and after the meeting was that people would notice i was leading outside my expertise and job description, and think who does she think she is? sit down. stay in your area. you're not good enough for this.
the meeting went good enough, and afterwards, a teammate said to me -- that was really brave what you did in there. those were really nice words that i've been carrying with me as i try to lead more courageously. i've sensed god asking for me to expand my leadership, to offer solutions and collaboration and unity in areas totally new and unfamilar to me. and, that's really, really scary. it's safer, for me, to stay under the radar. because flying low involves low risk, low cost, and low shame.
i'm in the middle of all this, trying to bring together my leadership and god's requests of me, and my insecurities and worries. in the middle, i'm reminding myself that leaders fly above the radar. and, it's usually scary up above. but, i believe wholeheartedly that god doesn't leave us when he leads us.
for now, i'm not backing away. i'll stay. stay in the tension, and the nerves, and the risk.