The thing about leadership though is that when you show up fully in a room, without apology, without people pleasing, acknowledging that there are things, people, situations, and styles that don’t work for you… there’s in conflict. Which is difficult for a recovering pleaser. When you sit back and assess and judge and watch, you can stay pretty safe. When you’re putting yourself, you opinions, your directions, your truth out there… get ready for some occasional challenges and pushbacks. When I come into a room fully in my truth, not everyone likes that or agrees with it. That’s new for me. I’m used to being the person that everyone likes even if they’re not sure why they like me. And I’m used to at least pretending to like and accept everyone. When you show up genuine, that security falls away. This is a new and exhilarating challenge. Here, at the beginning, I’m stuck and obsessing on some of the social interactions that come with putting myself out there and taking these risks. This is the beginning, I’m not steady on my feet. I’m pretty sure that with more practice and new habits, it won’t feel this unsteady. But for now, it’s like the floor fell out. I’m going to get my bearings. But I’m marking this time and the newness of it. Altogether, it’s fucking great to show up and be true to myself.
I’ve never considered myself a leader, but over the past year or so, I see this leadership developing in me. It’s a very pleasant surprise! I think the most surprising is that I’m comfortable in it and feel good about it.
I think what stopped me in earlier years was a self-consciousness, people pleasing, and inferiority feelings. I always felt like somewhat of a fuck up. Which I can see clearly now came from living with a micro-managing, very particular mother. But hey, you get what you get, she gave me a lot of good things, too.
Anyhow. In past jobs I have always been tapped to train. I’m an achiever so I generally try to position myself to learn and become expert and efficient at what I do. But to me, that was not leadership, that was just being good at my jobs. I think the difference now is that I really care about my work, my clients, the work of my agency, and the work of building programs that are responsive to the needs our clients.
I work at a community mental health clinic, culturally specific to African Americans. We have been talking for as long as I’ve been there about being innovative, being a “thought leader” in the field. All talk, no action. The agency has gone through financial hell in the past year and I’ve been going on forced partial furlough weekly and a pay cut for nearly all of 2013. Which will kill your motivation to stay engaged, let me tell you. However, things are kind of looking up. We recently merged with another organization, will soon be moving to a new location, and will be running more like a business than a non-profit. Management is looking at our billable hours and by necessity we’re being encouraged to think about how we will increase those billable hours or face being cut to a more part time schedule. It’s part gross and traumatic, part exhilarating. I’ve accepted it – I’m at my best under pressure.
I’ve been organizing meetings, calling clients, developing ideas for curriculum for our groups, and honing my skills to be more efficient. My communication has overall become more assertive over the past year, and I’m gaining a reputation at work for asking the questions on everyone’s mind in a courageous, assertive, yet gentle enough way not to be offensive. I hold our leadership team accountable. I advocate for myself and other employees.
Yesterday we had an informal curriculum meeting and another staff member deferred to me as leader of the meeting. And I just went for it, and it felt good. I’m great at this! I keep us on track, make sure all the points are hit, think about next steps. It’s a contrast to where I may have laughed it off or stayed silent in the past. I like this new side of me and want to develop it more.
And it’s not just at work, but also in being a leader, an active participant in my life. Another change in excelling at work is that I’m also not letting work overtake me. I’m doing well there, and I also have a life. Feels good!