I was sick of hearing the word ‘leader’.
It had become such a buzzword in the workplace that it made my ears burn as if a literal swarm of bees were attacking them. The term has become blurred in its meaning as more work environments have used it out of context, and I feel like it needs to be reeled back in to something that everyone can understand and identify with. Because buzzword or not, everyone has the potential to be a leader, not just career-wise specifically, but of quite frankly anything you want to put your mind to.
Contrary to popular belief, a leader doesn't have to be a manager, CEO or authoritive figure in the workplace. In fact I believe partly that as a consequence of the meaning of ‘leader’ being blurred, that it can be applied to all facets of your life, rather than being merely reserved to your 9 to 5.
In my opinion — and that of Jo Miller, a leading authority on women’s leadership who comprised this list — a leader is someone who…
1. Sees the big picture
2. Focuses on the future
3. Sets a vision and direction
4. Strives for continuous improvement
5. Focuses on the others
6. Communicates with transparency and gives open, honest, and direct feedback
7. Listens to understand and asks the right questions at the right time
8. Interacts comfortably with all types of people
9. Stays positive and constructive during difficult conversations and manages crises and conflict with ease
10. Finds middle ground and a path forward
11. Goes above and beyond
12. Likes to succeed
13. Gets things done and stays goal-oriented and solution-focused
14. Acts decisively
15. Makes decisions in times of ambiguity
16. Exudes energy and determination
17. Pushes for what she or he believes in
18. Embodies a positive attitude
19. Has tenacity and curiosity
20. Strives to accomplish what they commit to doing
21. Takes ownership and assumes responsibility
22. Sets high standards for themselves
23. Embraces change and course-corrects when needed
24. Takes risks
25. Is fearless
26. Exudes passion, honesty, and dependability
27. Wins trust
29. Operates with integrity and fairness
30. Has a thirst for learning
31. Shares know-how
32. Shows empathy
33. Is supportive and caring
34. Earns the respect of people
35. Is an influencer
36. Inspires and empowers others
37. Motivates others during times of uncertainty
38. Influences without authority
39. Engages differing points of view
40. Instills a sense of community
41. Creates a shared sense of purpose
42. Inspires people to act and move toward goals
43. Enables others to be successful
44. Allows people to learn from mistakes
45. Empowers others
46. Gives credit where it is due
47. Celebrates others’ achievements
48. Encourages others to do their best
49. Enjoys seeing others succeed
50. Helps others shine
Miller goes on to list 100, so I've only taken half of them, but already it paints a great picture of what a leader actually is.
When I read that list, I know that every badass woman possesses a handful and more of those qualities at least. You yourself may not even realise that people recognise you as a leader because some of these come so naturally to you. So when you wonder to yourself, is it that simple to be a leader? The answer is YES.
It’s great to have those high-flying career women as role models and inspiration for leadership, and it may frighten you greatly that you don’t think you could ever do what they do. It may also surprise you that you probably can, because there's already a leader inside of you — you just might not be using the word ‘leader’. You may using ‘friend’, ‘colleague’, ‘confidante’, ‘coach’, or just being your kind, warm and wise self.
So the next step comes with a new question: what (or who) do you want to be a leader for?