Who is the greatest, most inspiring leader you’ve met in your life? Maybe it’s a teacher, personal trainer, CEO or manager, or maybe it’s just a friend or family member with a remarkable ability to lead and inspire others. Leadership is such a loaded concept if you really take a moment to think about what it means. It’s the ability to help others achieve greatness, express themselves, take action. Great leaders convince the people around them that their way, their ideas, their actions are something worth buying into.
So, how do they do it? I think great leaders often do it through inspirational speeches, talks, essays, or stories, but I find the very best leaders do it through actions. It’s in the way they treat others. It’s in the things they do when they think no one is watching. It’s in their body language, and the way they carry themselves. When you’re around them, they make you want to be the BEST version of yourself.
So, what is it about amazing leaders that makes them so magnetic?
After a glass of wine and a discussion with my husband (who, maybe I’m biased, is a fantastic leader himself) about this topic, we had an ‘aha moment.’ It’s confidence. Through and through. The best leadership is all about confidence. Think again of the best leaders you’ve known in your lifetime. The one quality they all had, the one thing that links them and makes them so magnetic you’d follow them anywhere, is confidence.
What stops YOU from being a leader? If confidence is all that stands in your way, then let’s figure it out.
Gaining confidence seems like such an easy concept, but you can’t just wake up one morning and decide “I’m going to be confident today” and then completely transform. If only! I think it takes experience, maturity, humility, and time to learn from your so-called failures. Yes, you have to fail. Sometimes epically.
I’m not always super confident. I still have a long way to go, but I’m getting better. I have my failures to thank for that.
And I sure can tell you a story about failure.
Back in university, if I had to so much as introduce myself in front of a class of peers – literally, just say my name – my heart would start thumping in my chest so loud I’d hear it, I would get lightheaded, and it would be hard to breathe. I had major anxiety about allowing myself to be vulnerable in front of a group of people. I remember this one presentation I had to give in university. It was a pretty heavy fourth year English class – Human Rights and Poetry –and I was surrounded by all these genius artists (each in their own right) who were complete right brain thinkers. I mean, these guys were just intellectual in that breezy, make-it-look-easy kind of way. I hated them. I wished I was more like them.
So there I was in this class, a complete jock my whole life with a secret penchant for writing. I felt so inadequate. I sat through the entire year dead silent, wanting to sink into the floor if it meant avoiding attention, up until the class I’d dreaded the entire semester – the day of my major, final presentation. I had to take charge and teach the class for the ENTIRE 1.5 hour class. This was MY. WORST. NIGHTMARE. This story doesn’t have a happy ending. I bombed, to put it delicately.
I can honestly say that immediately following, I could hardly remember what happened. I think my brain’s flight response kicked in, protecting me from the sheer mortification of what actually went down! I remember there was sweating… I remember talking so fast my words were nearly incoherent… I remember the Prof interrupting me in front of the class to tell me to slow down and BREATHE. Yes, it was that bad. Thank God I have the ability to look back and laugh at this now. And, trust, me I laugh! Hard. What an epic failure that was.
I can say I have failed completely and utterly, and I can laugh at it now, knowing that I have come so far since then.
It was an awful experience and it made me realize I was living my life at 50%. I was staying in my comfort zone and not taking any risks, so much so that when I was forced to take a risk it was the most terrible feeling. I was stagnant. Since that painful learning experience, I made it a mission to take small risks every day. To be direct and frank with others, even when it’s the hardest thing to do. To speak up in a work meeting with higher ups. To step up to the loaded bar, in a gym packed-full of men, and attempt to lift it. To be vulnerable. I do this because, you know what, leaders fail.
Leaders have to fail to gain perspective, to learn, to be humbled. All of these things build confidence.
And I want to be a leader that others can look up to. If that’s what you want, then my advice to you is this: take risks in life that you will probably fail at. You might get the odd ego bruise (or real bruise) or someone might say something snarky about you (that’s their insecurity shining through), but you’ll recover and you’ll come back stronger. And soon enough, you’ll own a portfolio of small successes which will help you build a belief in yourself that is unshakable. This belief in yourself will be evident in your actions, in the way you carry yourself, and in the way you treat others. People around you will notice. They’ll see you as a leader. And they’ll want to follow you anywhere.
Never fear failure,