Let’s be real – finding authentic, safe, intimate friendships where you can be yourself with no expectations can be challenging. Susan E. Hinton says, “If you have two friends in your lifetime, you’re lucky. If you have one good friend, you’re more than lucky.” My friend, Melinda, is one of those people for me. Once a week, we meet downtown for happy hour and share food (and sometimes the flu). Our happy hour hangouts are a ray of sunshine in the often cloudy skies of Columbus. We talk about stressors, life, work and relationships and always manage to inject the conversation with quite a bit humor no matter the subject. Because of who she is, I find incredible freedom in our friendship. She is a great leader with an excellent moral compass. She is kind, incredibly knowledgeable and has impressive discernment. She is action-oriented and leads by example. In addition to all of these wonderful qualities, she is a pretty awesome writer. I’m excited to share her blog post today as it hits close to home for me and I know many other leaders. So, settle in and meet my friend Melinda!
Headstrong. Stubborn. Willful. Spitfire. Have any of these words ever been used to describe you? If so, and if you’re anything like me, you may have found that it can be a struggle for you to sit under the leadership of others. More times than I’m sure my parents would care to remember, I landed in the principal’s office for various incidents regarding what the administrators politely referred to as me being “strong willed”. Inevitably, I had gotten myself into some sort of disagreement with a teacher or a friend, where I decided I was right and I was having none of what I was being told to do (or not do). While my hotheadedness has certainly tempered with age and maturity, there are still instances to this day where I absolutely bristle at being told what to do.
Chances are, there is at least one area of your life where you are not in a leadership role; it may be in your church, in your professional life, or even within your own family structure. So, what do you do when some of your innate personality traits clash with the authority structure of your world?
First, take a moment to recognize that the very traits that may cause conflict in your life can actually be strengths, when you learn how to channel them in productive ways. I believe that if God gave you an independent streak, He gave it to you for a reason, and He knows you are able to handle it. You just have to discover how. Ask yourself how it can be an asset. Maybe your strong will makes you emotionally tougher than others, and you are able to use that strength to help people through trying times. Perhaps your independent nature allows you to run with tasks and see them through to completion with a minimal amount of supervision, freeing other hands up to work on different projects. You don’t have to lose what makes you uniquely you; it’s just a matter of finding the positive aspects of those traits and making them work for you and for others.
Next, know when it’s time to humble yourself. This is easier said than done, but check yourself before you wreck yourself, as the saying goes. Let’s say you are on a committee that is working on a project. You may have strong opinions about what should be happening, who should be assigned what tasks, and how the project should be handled, but if you are not the leader of the project, your job is to complete your part to the best of your ability, and to do so with a respectful attitude toward leadership. Believe me, I know this can be difficult, particularly if you disagree with how things are being handled. This is an area where I have had to really work on softening what can be the hard edges of my personality. I believe that being aware of my tendencies and learning how and when to humble myself (and not spout off my unsolicited opinions) has been a source of personal growth for me. While I will always be a work in progress, as we all are, I find it encouraging when I recognize instances where I didn’t go with my knee-jerk reaction.
Finally, when it is your turn to lead, be open to the input of others on your team. Don’t be so caught up in the “importance” of being a leader that you get tunnel vision. Remember how you felt when you were the follower, and not the leader, and keep an eye out for those stubborn members of your team. They might be exactly what you need to get the job done!
Facebook: Melinda Speckman