What It Means To Be A Leader
I see a lot of motivated, self-proclaimed successful people who use their status to talk down to “the masses”, particularly Millennials, about how lazy they are, and how they don’t put in the work to be successful. We’ve all read their endless lectures. Yes, I’m calling out many of my peers and mentors as well, because good leadership means taking the heat.
But this—this whining about others is anything but good leadership. It’s not that I’m offended, but rather that I do not find the generational narrative to be an effective one. I am not defending inaction or laziness, but I will not support petty leadership either.
True leadership requires you to actually help people change for the better instead of simply telling them why they aren’t enough.
The truth is that if you’re going to bask in the glory of your own work ethic and success, then the only talking you should ever be doing is to motivate others to learn from your better habits. Offer your lessons. Take time to share your wisdom. Motivate and encourage others. Stop the dictation. That’s how real leadership works. I don’t care what your accolades are, I don’t care how old or young you may be; you must understand that not everyone is fulfilled in the same ways as you. You must understand that true leadership requires you to actually help people change for the better instead of simply telling them why they aren’t enough, or why they aren’t like you.
So, perhaps it’s not Baby Boomers vs. Millennials, but all of us, as leaders, that should be putting in more work to communicate our challenges and thus, be of greater service to each other.
What It Means To Be A Leader
Do you want to be a leader? Congratulations, you get to spend your free time mentoring others, in addition to the grueling hours you spend ‘putting in the work’. Indeed, the work itself may be more than others are doing, but it’s not enough for leadership. Leadership requires you to use your platform to transform those around you, while being honest about your struggle: the period of time spent between whining and winning. There is little wisdom at either of those end points, yet there is incredible value in the journey between.
Talk about the mistakes you made along the way, and watch the gates of effort open. Ask others to question who they are and what they want, then give them credit for having learned the answer because leadership is also servitude: a double-edged sword that requires you to identify your own weaknesses before you can inspire another.
Leadership lacks ego, which is instead replaced with an intense responsibility and allegiance to people—to bring them to some vague promised land. To give the world something it has never seen from you. And yet, to get there, you may find yourself enduring a lot of sleepless nights, cold sweats, outstanding invoices, miscalculations, repeated rejections, the haunting failures of your past, and the viral idea that you could’ve done better.
You don’t magically become immune to the pain once you find yourself celebrated. There are ups and there are downs and there are a lot of people who you can help, and whose help you will need along the way.
Then there’s the nagging question of whether you have what it takes – and the ethical question of what gives you the right to lead when you actually have no idea what’s next. These fears are all very convincing. In fact, I would venture to say they are part of the human experience, but I’ve also [slowly] been learning that great leadership isn’t measured by any of those fears. It’s not about being right the first time, or 100% of the time. It’s not about proving anyone wrong. It’s not about fame. It’s not about fortune. You don’t magically become immune to the pain once you find yourself celebrated. There are ups and there are downs and there are a lot of people who you can help, and whose help you will need along the way.
We see, today, too many self-proclaimed “leaders” who say they have all the answers, and that is simply never true; they only prey upon your fear of uncertainty. Leadership means showing up & facing the uncertainty with honesty and integrity. Every day. For the sake of others and for the sake of your vision. You show up with conviction, you make it very clear that this is your best plan, you discuss, and you execute. And if that plan fails, you try again. And again. And again. And somehow, if you have the confidence to try despite the cloudiness, people are willing to give you a chance, and they’re willing to stand with you because you actually admit to not having all the answers. It’s scary, and yet, that is where I’ve learned to find the slightest bit of comfort in teammates and friends who are empowered by transparency, not wowed by a false bravado. These are the people who will make the ups more exhilarating and the downs less devastating.
I’ve learned to find the slightest bit of comfort in teammates and friends who are empowered by transparency, not wowed by a false bravado.
I used to pinpoint success on words like “strategy” and “charisma” and “innovative” and a lot of other self-congratulatory crap that made me feel good, but the problem was when I failed, those words failed, too.
So, these days, I’m just grateful to be surrounded by people who are willing to give it a shot—to give me a shot—because, no matter what, I’m never giving up. And that, my friends, is all that matters. We just have to stop nagging and help each other overcome our challenges.
A fellow Millennial