Laughing, Weeping, Living

Life happens. You laugh about it or cry about it, sometimes both.

What Does It Mean to Be a Leader?

on April 25, 2016

Close family and friends will know that several months ago I applied for a job that would be a Big Deal if I were accepted. It seems that my application was not accepted, which is no surprise to me since I knew it was a long shot, but I can’t help feeling disappointed. The experience leaves me with an odd mix of emotions and ideas about myself and what I see myself doing. On the one hand, I was looking forward to the opportunity to prove that I am important, that I have valuable insights to offer, that I am an effective leader. On the other hand, I feel some relief because that job really would have been a reach for my current skill set. On the one hand, I am glad I have been given time to develop the needed skills so I can apply more successfully should the job come available again in five or six years. On the other hand, I feel doubtful that I will ever be able to improve myself enough to become the desirable candidate the company is looking for.

The whole experience has put the decisions I have made so far in my career in sharp perspective. This is the first time I have thought that the decisions I have made do not serve my career goals. Granted, my career goals now are very different from what they were five years ago, and I would always make the decision to break from my career in favor of raising a family, no matter what my career is.

It leaves me thinking, what does it really mean to be a leader? What does it really mean to be a success?

I believe I am doing my most valuable work by staying home with Stephen, but this Big Deal job got me dreaming. Now that my application appears to be off the table, I wonder am I not leadership material? Do I not have what it takes to be a success? I’m thinking, you know not everyone has what it takes to be the leader. Some people just make great assistants. Should I just embrace being a good assistant? Does this mean I’m mediocre? Not everyone can be great; maybe I should just embrace being mediocre. Maybe I’m just cut out to be a successful small fry. Not destined for greatness.

It’s a good thing I have Jeremy to talk sense into me. He’s a great husband. He reminded me that being an assistant doesn’t mean I’m not a leader. That being a small fry doesn’t mean being mediocre. These are great points. There are different kinds of leaders at every level of notoriety. I don’t have to be in charge of lots of people to be a leader. I am a leader in my parish, in my family, and in my community organizations simply by being an active participant and believing in the mission of each organization. For me, I know I am a leader because I see that people listen when I talk, and I believe they value my insights. My opinion is solicited; people notice when I’m not there. That means something. As for being a success, that’s an idea I struggle with daily. I wanted to be validated by winning a job offer, but really it’s something I need to know about myself. My child is articulate and well-mannered (most of the time!), independent, has unique ideas and can solve problems. Success. My marriage is strong still, going into seven years married. Success. As far as I know, I don’t have any enemies. Success.

I have to keep an eye on what I really value. A career? Yes, but I value my family and friends more.

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