I’m not the typical picture of a leader figure. I don’t know how to raise my voice. People usually assume I’m still in high school. I’m not intimidating or authoritative in any way. I avoid conflict at all costs. And when I try to verbally communicate, I pray I make sense. So when I find myself in a leadership or mentor position, I find myself very confused as to how to best fill that role.
I remember in high school, the big goal I and other over-achievers strived for us to have some sort of leadership position in every activity we were involved in. Even if it wasn’t your immediate interest, simply filling up your resume for college and scholarship applications was basically the whole point of high school. Which is probably why I didn’t like it because I felt obligated to compete with everybody else to point of stressing myself out. Yeah, not a big fan. The college environment of simply going about my day, trying my personal best and getting my education. The GPA aspect isn’t as heavy as just getting to the end goal of a degree.
But that doesn’t mean the competitive-perfectionist mentality is thrown out the window. I still feel like I need to do more, do better. Just being involved in an activity or club isn’t enough. Not having a full resume is not good enough. Probably not healthy, but the education system lends itself to those thoughts. So I’m still facing the problem of how to achieve higher, leadership roles and how to fill them effectively.
My favorite leadership position I’ve been in was as my high school newspaper’s editor-in-chief. Even though I’m not the exact personality type for asserting myself and my authority, I still feel more comfortable with the work involved and issues (pun intended) at hand. When the topics are 0nes that I’m passionate about, it makes everything that much easier and more rewarding. If I’m sitting in a position that I don’t particularly care much about or feel qualified enough to do, that’s when things get awkward.
This semester I am the opinion editor of my college’s newspaper. Last week I gave a little presentation to prospective freshmen interested in the journalism program with my adviser. In my head I was picturing myself in my element and these kids somehow awed by my wisdom and experience. But I’m still just me. I’m certainly not a journalism expert. I don’t have all the answers. This is only my second in college, period. I again felt out of place, thinking that somebody else should be standing in front of these people rather than me. And in comes the self-doubts, the anxieties, the awkwardness.
Now that I look back on that little experience, I’m glad I’m not a typical leader. I don’t think I’m a godlike figure that knows everything and is always right. I know what it’s like to be completely clueless and uneasy. I’ve been around a fair share of dominating personalities that wants to bulldoze over everybody’s opinions. I think leaders who have a more quiet, peaceful force are underestimated because they aren’t as outspoken. But if you find your groove and are still effective, I think you can be a true force to be reckoned with. It’s not automatically taking the driver’s seat, but observing the situation and the people involved and knowing when to take the reins or step aside for other voices to chime in.
I am a strong believer that a situation is only awkward if you make it awkward. That one phrase “Fake it ’til you make it” can be quite useful. It’s okay to admit that you aren’t perfect. You’re just somebody to offer guidance and ideas for others. You can come in with some ideas, but sometimes just brainstorming with others and listening to their ideas can bring about great things. Introverts like me can see a leadership position and scurry away, but we can offer some amazing insight and a different perspective that could otherwise be overlooked. And when we perhaps go against our instincts to step up and take on that role, it gets easier and less terrifying.
Especially in situations you feel strongly about. If you feel confident and passionate, it shows. People respect that. Don’t doubt your knowledge or opinion because you are worth listening to and following. Before you can lead others, you have to, I guess, lead yourself, or at least be comfortable with your position and ideas. You can balance between being aware of the tasks and topics at hand whilst still being willingly to know when to back off or admit when you don’t know something or make a mistake. A leader is still a human. And a leader is just one face in a group or project; everybody has a role to fill.
I don’t look like a leader. I’m as threatening as a baby koala. But I know that if I feel the pull and ambition to step up to the plate, I can handle it. I have skills and knowledge to offer others. It might not be delivered in a way people are used to in leaders, but I can still get the job done. Just don’t expect me to think of clever ideas on the spot or raising a ruckus. Leadership is a two-way street. A leader is nothing without people who believe in them. Believe in yourself, and the rest will surely follow.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie