Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Leadership: Nature or Nurture?

After a very interesting conversation about whether or not leadership is born in us or made in us, I really started to think about my own leadership story. If you had known me as a little girl I don't think you ever would have seen my leadership qualities coming, and I was certainly the last to know. I was shy - so painfully shy. Some of my earliest memories involve clinging to the legs of my parents and not having much to say around strangers. I remember very slowly evolving into the character of curious and wide-eyed, but even then, I never ventured far from home (so to speak) and I always played it safe. I never understood risk-taking, after all risks caused my sister countless broken bones and stitches, which, by the way, to this day I have never suffered either a broken bone or a single stitch (knock on wood). I remember that my one and only detention in high school for tardiness caused me to burst in to tears. My play it safe side kept me from pursuing team sports, something I would later come to regret. And when I went off to college I didn't have the nerve to pursue theater, even though my entire high school career was spent on stage. If I tried - I am certain I could come up with more examples of my cowardice and lack of risk-taking in my growing years. HOWEVER, if I'm being honest, I do have this one beautiful childhood memory....I have always loved to write. I write for many purposes and audiences. And as a child I would write plays. I couldn't even tell you why, I just loved to write them. After writing, I would gather my sister and countless kids in the neighborhood and "make them" practice and perform my plays, and I would be at the helm of production leading them through the vision of each play. Following enough practice, I would get all of the kids to help me go door to door asking adults to come and be our audience, and then we would perform my play for the meager number of adults gathered who were only there because they were just too kind to say no to kids. In some ways, this story seems like an anomaly in my childhood predominantly stunted by lack of courage, or so I thought. And yet, as I went on through school, my teachers saw what I really couldn't yet see, and I know they saw it because I remember them signing me up for leadership classes where we learned about "I" statements and making change. I went on to be involved with the Daughters of the American Revolution and in middle school I raised enough money to go to Washington D.C. to attend the National Young Leaders Conference. I even took a year off of college to travel in a band for a year with 5 other teammates across the Pacific Northwest. That story along could fill its own blog. This anthology of stories, from my childhood alone, leads me back to my original question about whether or not our leadership is born in us or created in us through experiences. And if I'm inferring based on my own experience, I would unequivocally have to say both. I was born a leader. And I was made into a stronger leader. Life lessons build character, and I have always been surrounded by a really strong family and network of friends who have always been there for me, but have never tried to solve my problems for me. I've always had to do the hard work, and I've always had to find my own voice and courage. That's my story. What's yours?

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