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Leadership myths #3: Leadership – only for some? February 16, 2012

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Leadership.
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By Kamilah Apong

Leadership is often seen as a kind of idea that belongs with fancy lecture conferences, big podiums, and long speeches. This can seem pretty intimidating to anyone who is not a professor, president, CEO, or other fancy title. I know the idea of being a leader and having to accomplish all kinds of fancy things was intimidating to me. However, it doesn’t work that way.

Leadership is more accessible than we think! You don’t have to have fifteen degrees or a lot of money and job experience to lead. You simply need to have the courage to share your own stories. And you don’t need to have a million people there to hear it, or even one. You don’t need to have it written down and proofread, or said into a microphone. All you really need is yourself.

A great example of accessible leadership is the EMPOWER project. I worked with them this past year. This project was a group of youth who had a lot of stories to share about sexuality, being street involved, racial identities, and more tough stuff that they wanted to share. They shared their stories through home-made videos that they learned to create and edit themselves (with some friendly help from a few video experts!). These individuals didn’t use fancy conferences with podiums, but definitely got a STRONG message across about perseverance, courage, and resilience. These qualities are all part of leadership. Their messages can now be shared with people all over the web, in hopes to spark new stories of accessible leadership for all.

See for yourself!

Kamilah is a 3rd-and-a-half year student studying Equity, Women and Gender Studies, and Sexual Diversity Studies. She enjoys taking long walks on the beach while simultaneously handing out free condoms to people.

Myths of Leadership #1: Leaders have to be outgoing and social all the time November 29, 2011

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Leadership.
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By Ryan Oh

Leaders are often expected to be sociable individuals whose leadership work is publicly noticed for the impact they have on the community in which they are a part. This is one of the most common myths of leadership. I’m not the talkative type and may come off as shy, and yet, there never came a time when I questioned my ability to be a good leader. At the end of the day, I know what I’m doing and I get the job done, and I’d like to think I do a pretty good job (I say this in the most humble tone…seriously!). As David Rock, author of Quiet Leadership says, “help people think better, don’t tell them what to do.”

Sure, presence is an important element of being a well-respected leader. Leaders with presence exude confidence, are passionate about their beliefs, aggressively speak out, and make bold decisions. But Frances Kahnweiler, author of the book The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength introduces the idea of an “introverted leader.” This sort of leader does everything mentioned above but processes information internally. This kind of leader considers what others have to say, reflect, and then responds. Introverted leaders can be eloquent, aggressive and bold just like the loud, extroverted leaders. The key is to engage the audience, and we – I’m talking to all you introverted leaders out there – each have our own unique charms to do just that.

When I interviewed a couple of U of T students, one mentioned the idea of a quiet leader that doesn’t talk outright but acts as more of a supportive type. Another student felt that the ability to successfully assign tasks and ensure that responsibilities are completed does not require that one be gregarious.

I’d also like to emphasize that a leader does not have to take centre stage and be recognized for the group’s work. A lot of the big, bold stuff can happen behind the scenes. Take, for example, the various motions that are passed in the Governing Council meetings. They sculpt what our institution is today. Our leaders, however, make those decisions without being noticed by the several thousands of UofT students. This lack of recognition does not make anyone less a leader.

I find that introverted leaders perform just as well as their extroverted fellows. While they conduct themselves calmly, they are capable of leading with great enthusiasm and confidence. So let’s defuse any misconceptions that leaders need to be loud and out there. The quiet types, like you and I – and that quiet student we all know who always seems to be able to motivate people to do great things without seeming to say or do much – can be effective leaders too!

Read more:

How to be a Quiet Leader
Why we need Quiet Leaders

Ryan is in his third year of studies in Biology & Physiology. He is one of three vice-presidents for the New College Student Council and manages the monthly student publication The Window. He also serves as one of the Program Assistants for the Leadership Development Program at the U of T Office of Student Life.