I made an amazing discovery this week about my understanding of leadership and leaders.
I grew up in a very supportive and trusting home environment. My parents were and still are role models of compassion, frugality, understanding, logic and enrichment. In school I had the same experience with my teachers, Ms. Lindert especially, who greeting us in the morning in a variety of languages, encouraged us as individuals and supported us in our unique journeys through the Montessori system. In the dance classroom, I was under the tutelage of strong ballet dancers who cared not just for the performance but for our well being as individuals ("Have you eaten today?").
In short, the leaders in my formative years were: AWESOME!
And, thus began my aggrandizement of all leaders. I didn't know that leaders are people who have problems. I didn't know that leaders make bad decisions. I didn't know that leadership is an imperfect practice. It just seemed so easy from the outside as a child that I didn't think twice about it.
But, now, I am in a leadership position, and I am scared.
I don't feel like I know enough to be a leader. I don't feel like I have enough presence to be a leader. I don't feel like I have a pass into the "leader" club with the swanky leather chairs and cigars. I don't feel like anything other than Beth, trying to make her way through the world.
And, yet, I am realizing: This is it. This is what I get. This is what I have to work with. Being a leader is about surrounding yourself with people you trust, gathering as much of the (inevitably) incomplete) information as you can and then following your gut. We talk about leaders being too big for their britches. Well, I had sewn my britches for a giant who doesn't exist, and there is no way I will ever fit in them. So, I guess I continue to wear my dance leggings.
On the other hand, I am slowly learning that the leaders I had placed on the pedestal of perfection, wisdom and power are just a pair of skinny legs too (figuratively speaking). These people I had placed in the "Leader Club" with the velvet curtains and brandy decanters are just people. And, there is no reason I (or anyone else) can't have a place at the table.
Titles are words. Labels are not power. Leaders are just people and people will never be their labels or their titles. What's that children's book? Everyone Poops? Well, whatever it is, it helps me humanize those with whom I need to work on behalf of the future of dance and reminds me that I too am a simple human being who will make mistakes, feel small, suffer doubt and ultimately endure.
I have a feeling this isn't going to be pretty. But, I hope my journey will be effective.