The concept of Leadership is hijacked by a specific stereotype that has been persistent since a long time in the history of humanity. Its about a male, charismatic, bold, extrovert, born-this-way person who works in politics, community, or business and leads the masses. But theory and practice prove that leadership and isn’t and shouldn’t be always that way.
For starters, even though leadership might, but is not necessarily affected by gender, there is no indication that being of a specific gender means being a better leader. Even in the most masculine societies, there can be influential woman leaders. A great example being Malala, who not only defy gender, but also age stereotypes about leadership.
Charisma is another mystical characteristic that is often attributed to leadership, although it isn’t necessarily related to it. In fact, there is no clear agreed upon definition of charisma, or what it entails. There are people who are deemed as uncharismatic, yet great leaders. And it can happen that leadership gives a person charisma, not the other way around.
Being bold is also considered a specific trait leaders have. But while we have a specific idea what boldness means, it isn’t necessarily related to being fearless. There are many leaders who are afraid, yet do what they think is right to do. In fact, its the action despite their fear what makes them leaders and inspirational for others to follow.
Extroversion, which basically means being extra social, super energetic, and outspoken is also not a sign of leadership. There are many leaders who don’t speak a lot, don’t enjoy being around people more than they think is necessary, and don’t enjoy giving speeches. They tend to be reflective and enjoy their time alone. Introverts can also be leaders.
Modern research about leadership debunks the myth that leaders are born. Just like intelligence and talent, leadership was for a very long time thought to be inherited, either from environment or genes. By that I mean that it was believed that when somebody is born in a specific social context or born to parents with specific gene sequence, he or she becomes a leader. That however is not true. Especially the advent of neuroplasticity and the findings human brain cells are able to grow anew, regardless of age, indicates that humans are able to learn any new skills, characteristics, and ability, if they find the proper training and are gritty about them.
Also, leadership is not about having social or political power or running a businesses. A father can be a leaders if he takes care of the family well. A mother can be leader if she raises her children well. Older sisters or brothers can be leaders if they become positive role models for their younger siblings. Younger sisters and brothers can be leaders if they inspire the family to behave in a specific way. Teachers who give their experience and knowledge truthfully to their students are leaders. Thinkers who enlighten others with their ideas are leaders. Writers who transform people with their words are leaders. Friends who are there for others can be leaders. Anybody can be a leader.
Last but not least, it is action, and not always words that make a person a better leaders. People want leaders to tell them what to do, but more, how to do it. You can give speeches about anything you want, but if others don’t see you act on what you say, you won’t be a good leader. Credibility and trust are essential in leadership.
We might need political, social, or business leaders, but what we need more are everyday leaders. Leaders who defy the stereotypes we have about leadership, yet are able to inspire us and to think, feel, and act differently in our life.