Today we’re sharing insight from guest blogger Alex Perry, CEO of Practically Speaking, LLC, host of the Minivan Mogul Podcast, and author of Minivan Mogul: A Crash Course in Confidence in For Women. We hope you enjoy Alex’s wisdom and perspective.
As I sit down to write this, I'm already battling the little voice in my head that says, "Why are you trying to write a post on leadership? Seriously, Alex, stop, you're going to try to come up with something that sounds business-y (is that even a word), and you're going to sound ridiculous! Why don't you just leave this one to the experts and go back to scrolling through Facebook or something like that. What on earth could you have to say to professional people who don't make their living writing and talking about their adventures self-discovery in their minivans." ((sigh)).
I'm fighting the urge to make this sound like I think you expect it to sound and doing what I know works for me as a leader, which is writing exactly what I think. You didn't realize when you started this that you were going to get an express ticket to the inside of my brain. Welcome, please make yourself at home. Being true to myself as a leader is tough work that's only gotten minimally easier as I've gone along. Is the same true for you? (if not, feel free to scroll on over to another blog.)
The truth is, we haven’t been set up to be ourselves as leaders. We've been set up to be someone else's idea of what a GREAT leader is. I mean, think about it. From the time you were in grade school, you were handed a list of traits developed by someone else that basically defined how you should look, speak, and act to be "successful" as a leader. Stand still; don't make silly faces; use gestures (but not too many); be serious but not too serious. Those who followed the directions got to be line leader; those who didn't were the ones relegated to the back to "think about their actions." You and I both knew from an early age that the expectation was to meet the person's expectation at the front of the room, whether we wanted to or not. If we didn't, we failed. If we did, we succeeded. And so, begins the grooming of leaders who were only as authentic as the person in front of the room wanted them to be.
And as we grew, we carried this pattern into our work lives. We say what we know others want to hear, we act as we know others want us to act, and we strive for "authentic" leadership through carefully curated and constructed programs that ultimately define authentic leadership for us-leaving us again, with someone else's definition, not our own. We struggle between showing up as we think we should be versus showing up as we are. We forget that conformity is the kryptonite of authentic leadership. And, more often than not, the leaders who make the most significant impact are the ones who are willing to do what others will not. We forget that to stand out as a leader, we must first learn to stand alone.
As we were trained to do, we continue to look to the outside vs. looking in to find, define, and ultimately display ourselves as the person and leader we genuinely want to be. Which is tragic because you're a never-gonna-happen-again, only-occurs-once-in-the-universe, never-gonna-be-featured-again-on-Earth person. The world needs you to lead as you are, not as someone else would have you be. Defining yourself as a leader is simple, if not easy. You can only do the work, and the journey starts with one simple question "Who am I?".
What's The Risk?
The risk that stops us more often than not is the fear of rejection. We fear that we'll lose our good standing with others and be kicked out of the "tribe". But the greater risk, the one that's often forgotten until it's too late, is spending your life chasing after someone else's idea of who you should be, only to realize too late that you never got the chance to live as who you were meant to be.
This content was written and shared by Alex Perry.
Alex Perry is the CEO of Practically Speaking, LLC, host of the Minivan Mogul Podcast and author of Minivan Mogul: A Crash Course in Confidence in For Women. Her passion for all things speaking comes from spending nearly two decades as a Speech Language Pathologist, helping people regain the ability to speak after illness or injury. Alex is a motivational TEDx speaker, facilitator, and mentor. She helps others speak and share their stories with confidence using strategies she’s learned the hard way throughout her career. She’s a nationally certified Speech Language Pathologist, has a background in adult neurology and emotional intelligence and is an EQ-I 2.0 certified administrator. More importantly, Alex blends her scientific approach speaking with her love of storytelling, laughter, and humor into her work with individual clients and corporate teams. Most importantly, she’s a mom, minivan driver, and front row fan of her speakers.