The Inside Word

We are all leaders

When you think of a leader, what do you imagine? The familiar shape leadership usually takes is beginning to shift or, at the very least, be called into question. What we saw during the pandemic, and what we see now, is demand for a different kind of leader, one more appropriate for the times in which we’re living.

We want leaders who understand that leading is a privilege, not a right. We want leaders who have the courage to admit they don’t know everything.

This idea of an all-knowing, alpha leader has passed its ‘use by’ date. The command-and-control leadership style has its place in rare instances, such as on a battlefield or in an emergency. However, 99 per cent of the time it’s not the way we, as voters, want to see leaders operating in our communities, workplaces or families.

Everyone has the capacity to lead, and living in a democratic nation means we are all leading anyway. Many don’t realise that their unintended role in society influences those around them, or that the innate human behaviours that make them seek connection to others and within themselves, has the power to influence. While we’re not formal leaders, we each lead the ways in which we interact with people.

The typical attributes we associate with leadership, including wisdom and capability, have long been perceived as hard skills, whereas interpersonal attributes of humility, self-awareness and empathy have been seen as soft skills. It’s time these ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ categories are dropped, because leading with empathy takes an enormous amount of strength and courage, and effective leaders today bring all these attributes to every context in which they lead. 

Unless one leads with emotional intelligence, it is impossible to be a leader who truly understands something like diversity and inclusion enough to make a difference. Why? Because you would be unable to empathise with lived experiences different to your own.

We all have the capacity to lead, and if more people believed this, we would see a diverse spread of holistically capable individuals in the driver’s seat of our nation. It is this mixture of leaders who will lead us to the best outcomes.

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