So, what exactly is leadership? A quick Google search tells you it’s “the action of leading a group of people or an organization,” but that doesn’t tell you anything about what it really means to be a leader, and a good one at that. I also don’t believe there’s one single definition that can truly encompass what leadership is. It’s quite subjective, and multifaceted.
The meaning of leadership has been on my mind a lot lately. For the past six months I’ve been part of Leadership Cape Cod’s 2022 Community Leadership Institute (CLI) class. From Wellfleet Preservation Hall to the Massachusetts State House, my classmates and I have journeyed across the Cape and beyond to hear from so many incredible leaders in our community. As inspiring as all of these leaders are, the most impactful part of this program, for me, came from my very own classmates – particularly my group project members.
Part of the CLI program involves completing a service project for a local nonprofit organization – a project that must be sustainable for the nonprofit of our choice. Our class of about 30 was divided into three groups. My group’s project was for Cape Cod Children’s Place – an amazing organization – and consisted of a digital guide of children’s mental health resources for parents in need, along with a video to help promote CCCP (which you can watch by clicking here).
I hit the jackpot with the nine people I got paired with.
I was meant to be with these people. The instant camaraderie we all had with each other is one of the more special experiences I’ve had in my life. And what this group did for me is something I will forever be grateful to them for. It’s actually something one of my group members, Catheren, talked about in her speech (that’s another thing – we all have to give two-minute speeches during the course of the program) – empowerment.
Let me explain by sharing with you an amped up, definitely-longer-than-two-minutes version of the two-minute speech I gave:
I’ve never considered myself a leader. When I used to think of the word leader, I thought of words like assertive, Type A, outgoing – none of which I’ve ever been. I’ve always been resigned to being a follower, and I was cool with that, because I’ve always killed it at being a follower.
I had a friend tell me something recently that totally shifted my perspective – he said that the best leaders don’t seek leadership, it is thrust upon them, and then it becomes about how you respond to the moment.
I had such a moment during the course of this program. As my group was in the initial stages of brainstorming our service project, and as I was hearing the kinds of causes and organizations that hold a special place in each of my group members’ hearts, an idea hit me – a way to coalesce everything into something. Do I speak up and share my idea, I asked myself. I tend to doubt myself and hold back. But not this time, I decided. I felt confident within this group – I felt like a respected equal.
The response I got from my group members when I did share my idea was beyond supportive – they actually wanted to run with it – and I found myself at the forefront of the group, leading the way in developing this idea into a blueprint of the project it would ultimately become. And then a few of my group members actually thanked me for taking the lead – that blew me away.
We underestimate ourselves too often. I certainly have. I told myself I wasn’t a leader – that was a lie, though, because I showed myself I actually can lead. And, as my group member Kim reminded me, I do have a voice.
That brings us back to the whole what is leadership question. While I can’t give you one clear-cut answer, what I can tell you is that a key ingredient of good leadership is empowerment – empowering both yourself and those around you to be their best. I’ll go forward in my life continuing to do just that, and I hope you will as well.
One last thing: Let me formally introduce myself — I’m Haley Cote, the Community Manager of CapeSpace Mashpee. I love to write (my background is in journalism), so a big thank-you to Robbin for letting me take over her “Word” blog this month!