I am by no means a formal leader. I don’t have any formal positions, and I’ve never been elected for or run for any positions either. But since I started writing for Life @ U of T, I’ve quickly learned that leadership is not restricted to fancy titles or a specific persona, or even just one skill. I’m learning that it’s actually more like a behaviour, that I can practice everyday, even in the most mundane situations. And who knows, maybe one day I will apply for a formal leadership position. In that case, this reflection may come in handy for future reference.
Here are 5 leadership skills that I can practice everyday:
I know that empathy is about putting myself into others’ shoes, but sometimes I’m quick to judge and I forget that it’s not about what I would do in those shoes. It’s about listening to the other person share their experience, and trying to understand it from their point of view. Practicing empathy shows me other perspectives and helps me to be more critical of my own judgement.
The only time I enjoy running, is when it’s from confrontation. But I’ve quickly realized that it’s not a very effective solution. It takes a lot of work to collaborate with others during a conflict, and it’s often uncomfortable. But learning how to confront the discomfort, and transform it into space for listening and understanding. Recognizing how I usually handle conflict was the first step. Now, I don’t enjoy running as much.
I usually listen a lot more than I speak, mostly because I get nervous by the latter. And I often prefer writing. But I’m learning that good communication is not just about being attentive, but it’s also about finding different ways to effectively share information and ideas. It takes constant practice that sometimes comes with stumbling over words and re-framing phrases, awkward silences and abrupt interruptions. So I just keep trying.
What will I give my attention to right now? is what I ask myself when I have a lot of things on my to-do list, or when I’m feeling overwhelmed. For example, maybe in one moment it’s more important to take a break and play with my dog; but in another moment, I need to continue working on an essay. Focusing on what’s important in each moment and addressing one thing at a time always helps me to calm down, and sometimes, I also end up being more productive.
From time to time, I take these self check-ins to reflect on my interests, values, skills, strengths, or how I’d like to grow to get to know myself a little better. I’ve found that this helps me to be more intentional because I’m more aware and mindful of my thoughts and actions. It has also helped me to feel more confident because I know what I bring with me wherever I go, what I can share with others. Who am I? can seem like a loaded question, but perhaps it’s the simplest question of all.
What are some leadership skills you practice everyday?