Taking My Cape Off

Long have I been putting this off. And after so many months and rewriting, I now know what to write about.

Let me share with you how this post would have been, what it was supposed to be if it wasn’t for tonight.

This post would have been a ranting on the similarities between Superman and I. It would have been how we both have great responsibilities to carry and expectations to fulfill. It would have been how we both want to take risks and make mistakes without others looking down on us. That our power (or authority) has given us the image of someone who can never fail, someone set apart from others. And yet what we both want to be is like others, to belong, to not be seen as another.

The heck this guy is talking about?

Long story short, I’m talking about my leadership.

I’ve been struggling in it for a very long time. But I’ve done nothing significant to tackle the problem but pray, pray and pray. (For the record, I’m a religious youth group member. And a life of hypocrisy and dishonesty has mainly contributed to my struggle.) I’ve come to a point where I couldn’t lead anymore, that the group needed someone more competent than me.

But behind it all, I merely wanted to be a member again, to sit and listen to someone I think I can trust. I couldn’t see myself in that ‘someone’ anymore. Because I couldn’t trust myself.

But here’s the amazing thing that happened to me. And this is what this post is now all about.

God answered my prayer.

Three weeks ago, my sister and I decided to man up and attend one of the parish youth meetings. It was recently re-initiated by some of the parish youths and the newly ordained priest. It has a pretty decent number of members but I wasn’t expecting much from it.

I expected it to be all fun and games with little substance, people gathered in their own mini-groups, reluctant to contribute in any discussions or sharing. I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t work out in the end, like the previous youth group.

But the desire to be like others stuck. Tonight, it was my second meeting with the parish youths and I can happily say that… you know… I might be wrong about all that. Sure, they might be a bit too restless and noisy for a youth group, but they do have an enthusiasm and willingness to share that is admirable. They might contribute to discussions with simple answers and naivety, but I was completely humbled when they fearlessly open their hearts and shared their stories.

But what I’m more happy about is that I felt that I was part of all that, that I wasn’t facilitating the discussions or supervising the members. The things I’ve said weren’t treated differently from others. Yeah sure, I still feel out of place and left out but isn’t that the beauty of being a member?

Uncertainty is expected, not avoided, which very well takes the burden of needing to know and plan everything off my shoulder. Everyone has yet to make a solid impression of you. I am given the chance to trust someone else. I don’t have to rely on my resources and talents. Because I now have my leader.

At the same time, I would have someone to be on equal grounds with. I would be sharing experiences in leadership with the parish youth leaders. Though I would rather prefer to stay as a member in the group, I would like to be accountable for each other. I would like them to feel that leadership is not a one-man’s job. Superman has his Justice League.

However, I reckon this is only just a part of God’s majestic plan. Maybe. Maybe not. Like how Superman was on a hiatus from his usual hero job by sleeping in the sun, I too feel like I’m taking my cape off for a while to better prepare myself for a bigger calling.

And what could that calling might be, I wonder.

God bless.

Are Leaders Born or Made?

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This question was brought up during one of my classes in high school. I thought it was another one of those ‘chicken or the egg’ questions where the answer is ambiguous. And like all ‘chicken or the egg’ questions, we were separated into ‘born’ group and ‘made’ group, and thrown into a heated debate on who’s more right.

I threw myself into the ‘made’ group and I swear we were taking the lead! But before we realized, class was over. We waited for our teacher to have the last say, to take a side, but noooo she didn’t. Instead, she dismissed us and left us hanging.

My classmates didn’t make a big deal out of it.
Leaders are made, stupid!
But, I did.

I believe partly because I wanted to be right, to affirm my beliefs and perspective on leadership. But mostly because I was a leader myself. An incompetent one.

Fast forward two years and I’m still a leader of a youth group.

What triggered this memory, and thus the question, was that I had enough of my emotional episodes of feeling crap, lacking and unworthy whenever I feel that I’m not progressing into a better leader. While I always believed that leaders are made, I always blame myself for not being born a leader. I wasn’t born for this role!

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I didn’t want to be a goner or a hopeless wannabe, and so I decided to read up on the topic here, here, here, here and here and watched several TED talks here.

In summary from what I’ve read, apart from knowing that particular personal characteristics and temperaments are embedded in born leaders, leaders are mostly ‘made’.

Yes!

Interestingly, I noticed one thing that I personally think is fundamental in leadership that a few of the sources mentioned, albeit sometimes subtly, while the others did not. It’s that without a reason or an inspiration to lead, there will be no leaders in the first place. There’s no need to lead when there is no reason to lead! This sounds very commonsensical at first glance but this took me by surprise.

After finding out that leaders are more often ‘made’ than ‘born’, this realization is more important than before.
You can’t train a leader and expect him to flourish if he doesn’t know why he’s doing it in the first place. Unless a powerful idea or dream is imprinted in the hearts and minds of the leaders, there will be no passion or motivation to drive the leaders, and consequently their followers into striving and fighting for that same idea or dream! Passion is contagious. Effective leadership is contagious and charismatic, confident and convicted.

On the other hand, a born leader will not recognize his role if he doesn’t recognize the need for him to take one. If the idea or dream is not strong enough to tug at his heartstrings, he will not move. He will never truly know he is a born leader without anything significant to fight for.

But don’t take my word for it! I’m merely your anonymous blogger. Simon Sinek from TED talk elegantly delivered the importance of a reason, idea or a dream in this timeless talk:

I think it’s time for me to do some introspecting – what drives me, the dream I am pursuing, and the reason of my leadership. And if after introspection do I find out that I don’t have a powerful motivator, it’s time to find one! It’s such a relief to know that I can be trained into a better leader and that leadership is a lifelong journey, even for the born leaders.

Anyways, to conclude, whenever someone asks you the question whether leaders are born or made, lift your chin up and say this proudly:
“Leaders are mostly made, but there are no leaders when there is no reason to lead”.

Darn! I wish I knew this two years ago!