Updated: Feb. 26, 2021
We’ve all seen “natural” leaders in action. They float around the agency or the office with some sort of magical touch. They open their mouths and words of inspiration just seem to fall out of them like a waterfall of encouragement. You spend ten minutes with one of these natural leaders and you feel like you can conquer the world… or maybe just your to-do list. If you’re like me, you shake your head in amazement and ask yourself, “how do they do that?” It’s like they have inherited some sort of leadership gene that molded them into a natural born leader. Well, I don’t buy it.
Where Do Leaders Come From?
If we’re to believe that leaders are born and not made, that gives most of us an excuse to not even try. I believe that we all possess qualities that are important to leadership, and with a little empowerment and self-exploration, we can develop our own leadership style no matter what title we currently hold in our agency. Our internal drivers and motivations shape our potential leadership style as does our unique life experiences. Of all the qualities that are needed to lead or become a leader, a title is not one of them.
You do not need a title to be a leader. Read that again.
You can lead from whatever position you hold. If you wait until you have a title to lead, you will not be
a leader. You have to first act like a leader to think like a leader, you have to think like a leader to feel like a leader, and you have to feel like a leader to effectively lead. There is no way around that. I will call upon the famous Henry Ford quote:
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you are right”.
If you believe that leaders are just born that way and you just weren’t blessed with that gene, then you’re right, you won’t be a leader. But to those of us who believe that you have leadership skills within you to build upon and visions of a better future for the people, you are also right.
It’s easy to feel stifled without that leadership
title. We’ve all either said or heard someone say, “sorry, that’s above my pay grade”. While that may be true in some situations, leadership starts with having the courage to take on a cause that you don’t have 100 percent control over, but you have 100 percent belief in the vision. If there’s a situation at work that you think could be done in a better way, do you throw blame around or do you take one small step at trying to make a change? Did you know that you are actually in control of which of those actions you choose?
This is your mindset, and your mindset is the key to recognizing the leader in yourself and continuing your personal journey towards becoming a leader.
How Do I Lead From Where I Am?
Leading from wherever you are means demonstrating leadership when the situation calls for it.
Leadership is service, and it takes courage and action. Modeling leadership serves the people around you, and that is the type of leadership that requires no title at all. You can model leadership from whatever position you hold at your agency by using your voice to speak up when you have ideas, supporting a coworker, staying calm in times of unrest, or stepping up when there is a need.
As humans, we unconsciously take in what we see much more than what we hear. When your coworker, supervisors, or staff will be inspired by your behavior much more than what you say. The old adage of “do what I say, not what I do” is not going to fly if you are working to earn the trust and respect of others. As leaders, we cannot expect more from the people we serve than we do from ourselves. Leading without a title means being self-aware and performing small, simple gestures every day that compound into trust and connection.
Small Steps Are Courageous
Experience tells us what is important in leadership, but it does take some examination. Take some time to think about the leaders you admire in your life and why. Who in your life do you respect as a leader no matter what title they actually hold? Taking some time to think about what qualities are important to you can help you develop your leadership skills. They are different for everyone and every leader has different strengths, but here are a couple of things to keep in mind in your leadership journey:
Leadership is hard. It’s really hard.
Leadership is not a destination, it is constant self-evaluation, difficult conversations, sleepless nights, and bravery.
To be a good leader, we must always be working to improve.
To lead effectively, no matter what your job title, you must also earn trust. Trust is earned through paying attention to, listening to, and showing gestures of caring to those around you.
You have to care.
One final thought on leading from where you are. Leadership is not about you, it’s about others. If you know this, live this, and model this behavior, you are well on your way down the leadership path.
Written by Sara Weston, YFFR Resilient Women Leader Conference Speaker
Sara Weston Is one of the six speakers at the first annual, Resilient Women Leaders Conference, on March 20th, 2021. Sara is the Founder and Executive Director of 911der Women, Inc. (pronounced 9-1-wonder-women), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to empower and provide tools for women in public safety. She is also the CEO of Sara Weston Consulting, LLC and has worked in 911 for over 15 years, managing projects for Next Generation 911 technology planning and implementation at the state and national levels. Sara has traveled the country visiting 911 centers and getting to know our amazing 911 heroes.