Leaders are Born…or Made?

The old saying goes that great leaders are born, not made.

What. A. Crock.

Needless to say, I completely disagree.

See, I was not born a leader. There was not, for nearly 29 years, a single bone in my body that ached – even a little – to lead others.

Not that I wanted to follow, per se. Though that’s often what we find to be the easiest path, isn’t it?

You follow. You work for others. You concede to your friends and family. You smile. You hide your quirks.

I was a follower for many years. This included the first two years of running my own business. I allowed my ideas to be stolen and steamrolled, my schedule to be determined by the client, my limitations to be tugged and poked and prodded until I stepped into unfamiliar, unwelcome territories.

That last one was when I finally said “enough is enough.” Not that I’m against learning or change. I’m all for being shoved out of the nest. I’m not a fan of being shoved off the cliff.

Something occurred to me: I work for no one but myself.

Suddenly, it was like all of these doors swung wide open. I don’t rely on my clients, my clients rely on me. Sure the money that they send me is great. It pays my bills. But no invoice amount is worth my sanity. I can find another client. I can find another job. I can do something that makes me happy, not crazy.

So I fired a bunch of people. I’d never fired anyone in my life. I didn’t know how. I poured over books and blogs and how to manuals. Nothing I read made me less uncomfortable about what I had to do.

That’s the thing I’m realizing about being a leader as I find myself warming to the role.

I might be uncomfortable firing people or interviewing potential clients or asking for someone to pay their damn invoice, but at the end of the day, I’m all I’ve got. I am…a leader. And I wasn’t born this way. I made myself.

Appreciating the Moment

I’d always found it easy to revel in the past. Memories of success, memories of failure – of joy, of laughter, of sadness of happiness. In retrospect, everything just seems – better, I suppose? Even the tough lessons I was forced to learn seem to have such glaringly obvious outcomes. How easy I could have made my life if I just hadn’t been so wide-eyed and naive.

I also have a much younger sibling and, at nearly 30 years of age, I find myself pushing advice on her. There are so many things I wish I had known as a high school senior! How important it was to have relationships with your siblings, for example. How significant all of those little details of last dances, last plays, last football games are when you no longer have more of them to look forward to. I try to warn her about the challenges she’ll face in college – peer pressure like she’s never known.

Sometimes, I even find myself wishing that I could go back and do it all over. If I could there are so many things I would change, so many different routes I would take…

But then I have to stop.

I take a breath.

Because right now, this moment, is going to be one that I remember in ten, twenty, thirty years. I’ll remember when I was on the cusp of something amazing. When I had my own business and was working like crazy to write and publish my books. I was planning a move to Portland. When I take my dog on long walks and we enjoy the autumn leaves together because we are both huge fans of fall – all of these things, I’ll look back on when I’m older and perhaps a bit wiser, and feel wistful of course. For my youth. For my energy. For my efforts. For the love I’m surrounded by on a daily basis but sometimes totally am unaware of. But there will be something else. Unlike when I was younger – before I knew better – I’ll have enjoyed every moment IN the moment. I’ll have grasped what that saying means and I’ll have lived it.

That’s something my sister doesn’t have just yet. And it’s okay. She’s young. I know I remember being a teenager romantically. It was NOT that great. But parts of it were. Parts of being a twenty-something and eventually a thirty-something will be great, too. Other parts not so great. But I suppose that’s the ultimate value of appreciating the moments that life throws at you.

Enjoy them, love them, then set them free…