Leadership. If you ever want me to run screaming like my hair is on fire, that’s the quickest way to do it. Seriously. I find the entire concept of me being any kind of a leader to be such a difficult concept. I know how fucked up I am, what all my weaknesses and faults are, and I just cannot see myself holding any aspect of leadership anywhere. And yet, I hear all kinds of aspects of praise aimed at me in terms of leadership. “You’re an inspiration to me.” “I love the way you maintain your cool in the face of issues and hardships.” Man, if people could only hear my lovely inner voice coming from my left shoulder, whispering all kinds of thoughts into my ear.
Most of what I know about leadership came from non-commissioned officers’ school in the United States Air Force. A leader is an example to others. The individual that manages to get things done. Knows the rules and follows the rules. The picture-perfect epitome of what the Air Force wants in its enlisted leadership corps. It took six weeks of training for the Air Force to realize I was *barely* capable of holding those aspects in my concept of bearing.
I could get things done, but not always by following the rules. I fractured, bent, folded and mutilated rules in order to get things done. My idea of completing tasks was to get from Point A to Point B. Just don’t ask how I got there. I wasn’t a spit and polish military individual either. Clean, wrinkle-free uniform? Well, that depending on the day of the week. Polished boots? What the fuck for? A spit-polish on my boots wasn’t going to make it easier or better for me to get the appropriate wiring through the small crawl-spaces of the bunker. Why worry about being completely clean when the job was going to get me dirty anyways? Yeah, my mentality wasn’t where they wanted it to be focused. I wasn’t their idea of a leader.
I did learn leadership from the sergeants who got the job done. Want your subordinates to clean the head? Clean it yourself on the first day, show them what it looks like, and demand that they do the same job or better. Roll up your sleeves and help when things don’t go to plan. Talk about what happened and why it went wrong when everything is working right. Discipline only when necessary and ALWAYS behind a closed door. Praise their effort publicly and often. For me, those lessons meant so much more than the idiotic spit-and-polish concept that was presented to me.
So, knowing that of leadership, why do I run so far from the entire idea? Staying to the unspoken rules of leadership, a lot of that is part of my collective DNA. Why do I move away from the entire idea? What is it that I don’t want from all of that? That’s easy. I don’t like to be the center of attention. I am rather adverse to the feeling of being the primary example of anything. Like I said, that little voice whispering in my ear reminds me of all the issues that should make people shy away from me.
I am also reminded that much of these faults also provide the perspective that I am “just like anyone else.” We all fuck up. We all make the bad choices. We all live with the consequences, both mild and harsh. We all have our “battle scars”. Perhaps, because I am not afraid to publicly embrace my issues and mistakes, some folks find that to be an aspect that they can relate to. Maybe. Whatever it is, if it helps people step up in their own lives and embrace the fire that gets them there, wonderful. If that’s what is going to be a defining factor of leadership, inspiration or whatever you want to call it…so be it. I’ll keep denying the concept…because that’s the only way that I can truly deal with it. At least that’s what the voice on my shoulder keeps telling me….