We go to college, get our degrees, and expect to be done learning. We can be subject matter experts and leaders in our respective fields. But true leadership comes from personal knowledge of self and having the understanding that we’re never done growing.
As aspiring authors, we can relate to the long journey through our #WIP. We could’ve read our manuscript a dozen times and revised it to the point where we think it’s perfect. It isn’t until we get alpha readers, beta readers, critique partners, or professional editors that we begin to see the imperfections. Most of the time, not seeing what needs to be changed has little to do with education level, career status, title, or pedigree and more to do with perspective. We can indeed stare at something for so long that it can become difficult to see it objectively. Therefore, sometimes it’s wise to have several sets of eyes on personal work projects and those you create professionally.
Now that it’s a new year, we’re all hoping to revamp ourselves. It’s the perfect opportunity to realize our strengths and to acknowledge areas where we can improve. I dislike labeling such areas as weaknesses because calling something weak is demeaning and can reinforce a negative opinion of ourselves. For example, being too sensitive can be considered a weakness. But is it really? Sensitivity is a heightened sense of emotion, and some sensitive people are empaths and have a remarkable ability to connect with others. Empaths make great negotiators, mediators, counselors, and therapists. Being emotional is sometimes considered a sign of weakness. But those who are emotional also make for great actors, creators, writers, musicians, and can move an audience, impacting the world with art.
Heck, even being a little narcissistic can have its advantages, according to a 2012, “Psychology Today” article fittingly titled, The Healthy Side Of Narcissism:
“Having the ‘right degree’ of narcissism may also help people attend to what they wear and how they groom themselves, and therefore present a more professional image. For better or worse, society rewards people seeking jobs or promotions who spend a little more time honing their looks. People high in adaptive narcissism are also more likely to seek those jobs or promotions because their self-confidence leads them to aim high.”
Leadership skills are more than commanding a boardroom meeting and managing dozens of employees, accounts, or running a company. Authentic leadership is equal parts generosity and humility. It’s identifying mistakes and seeing them as a growth opportunity rather than a weakness. We can all be hard on ourselves when we’re not perfect. If we’re hard on ourselves, that means we’re often hard on others, too. Our expectations might be extremely high, so disappointment can set in quickly. This is so true for those of us that are die-hard perfectionists. Some of us writers might cringe when errors are pointed out in our WIP that we didn’t catch. It can be a little embarrassing, especially when we thought for sure we triple-checked everything.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s reminded us to be kind to ourselves and place self-care as a top priority. The pandemic hasn’t simply changed how we work remotely, interact with our neighbors, or run our everyday lives. So, many people’s mental health has been affected by COVID. It’s even changed temperaments and made some who used to be slow to anger rise swiftly to irritation mode at the drop of a hat. Even a “Today” article posed the question: Is the coronavirus pandemic making us mean? It could be that more people are stressed out by so much change. Regardless, prioritizing our personal well-being means understanding that having good health requires self-reflection. And sometimes doing a self-inventory might make us realize that we’ve become complacent. When we think we know everything there is to know, we hinder our potential, and we fail as leaders to our community and role models to our younger generation.
The Bottom Line
True leadership is being constantly on our toes and willing to change. It’s adaptability and having the mental flexibility to learn what we don’t know. It’s evolving by seeing that our shortcomings can be fantastic moments to become students again. There is nothing wrong with being a student of life. There is nothing wrong with seeing ourselves as rough drafts in need of revisions. As characters in our own story, some of us might be morally grey and be walking dichotomies or full of contradictions. That’s okay. Society might call them flaws. Society might call them weaknesses. But, I call imperfections beautiful assets and the greatest tool that life can give us for eternal change.
Let us demonstrate leadership in all areas of our lives by removing negative labels that define our failure to be perfect. Instead, let us become leaders who are first humble, adaptable students willing to evolve. No matter how many times we must undergo personal revisions on ourselves, our careers, and especially when it comes to our respective manuscripts, we must remember we are always a work in progress. We must never give up. As cliché as it sounds, true success isn’t measured by what we achieve, but how often we dig ourselves out of that dark well and have the courage to try again.