A former supervisor once told me I was “a servant leader.” At the time, I had no idea what the term meant. Nor was I working in an official leadership capacity as a supervisor or manager. Why would she say I was a leader?
She was able to see what I could not see in myself. In her observation of my interactions with people across the organization, she recognized that we shared fundamental beliefs and engaged in practices that put these beliefs into action.
In their book, “The Leadership Challenge”, James Kouzes and Barry Posner assert “teams, organizations, and communities need people to step up and take charge…it is the work of leaders to inspire people to do things differently, to struggle against uncertain odds, and to persevere toward a misty image of a better future.”
Throughout my educational and professional career, it was always very important for me to demonstrate integrity in my work. The same holds true today. Maintaining honesty and integrity, having an open mind, and contributing towards a common goal are ideals that are very dear to me as a leader. The notion of never compromising my integrity was an invaluable lesson I learned from my father, an armed forces veteran and public service retiree. He migrated to the mainland United States from Puerto Rico as a young boy and despite many family challenges, including a language barrier, he worked tirelessly to lead his family. However, because of extreme humility, one area of my father’s leadership that was stymied was his inability to tell his story.
In “Practical Genius: The Real Smarts You Need to Get Your Talents and Passions Working for You,” Gina Amaro Rudan contends that “the single most important way you leverage that sweet spot [place where your hard and soft assets intersect] is by telling your story.” Further, Amaro Rudan goes on to explain that your story matters “because it tells the truth. Because it inspires, explains, or connects you with someone else. Because it is a powerful, free, persuasive, natural, entertaining, memorable, and above all, authentic.” Wow. Read those lines again. All of it is tied to leadership.
Have you assessed your relationships with others recently? Do you connect with your team? Are those individual and collective relationships meaningful? If so, why? If not, what can you do right now to enhance or improve those relationships? During various stages of my career path, I’ve completed personality inventories and online strengths assessments. The resulting discoveries from these tools were not shocking; however, what I noticed immediately was how, to some extent, I’ve stayed true to my core whereas in other areas, I shifted. I know the growth and ultimate shift were in part due to life transitions. I’m far from perfect; but like Olivia Fay, remind myself “before an intimidating conversation…that I will be the same person before and after the conversation, no matter the outcome.”
Are you up for the next challenge in your career or next personal pursuit? Do you think you’re ready to lead? Perhaps, like me, you’re already leading but this innate characteristic hasn’t been realized. Don’t get sidetracked by leadership myths. Find your voice, listen to it, trust it. Go forth and lead because your leadership empowers and inspires those around you.
Disclaimer: The opinions, references, and views expressed in this post are those of the guest blogger and do not reflect the official policy or position of the agency where she is currently employed.
Yesenia Flores Díaz is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.