An Aversion to Leadership

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When I was in the fifth grade I became the student council president at my elementary school.

I had my campaign speech, with various promises for improving our student council and bettering the lives of our student body.

When I was elected to this position at the age of eleven, I became quickly aware of what politics could be, even for a fifth grader. Even though I had participated as a fourth grader, the experience was very different once I became “the leader.” I had limited power (unbelievable!). I had a tremendous amount of public attention on me. There were the critics who pointed out that they would do so much better if they had been president, and that my side pony tail was supposed to be on the left, not the right. There were the strange false friends who tried to cling to me out of some bizarre popularity boon. There were friends who took my busy schedule as me being too good for them anymore. The teacher in charge of the student council was one of those people who hates children, and teaches for the summers off (you know these teachers). After my year in student council, I decided politics were not for me and I never went back regardless of how many English, debate, and history teachers implored me to over the years.

Some people feel they are natural born leaders and they may even revel in conflict, attention, and being in the public eye. Some of us hate conflict and criticism. Given the choice of being in a coyote trap or in a room full of people I don’t know, I’m going to have to think about it. However if you are like me, you feel deeply compelled to make the world better place than you found it. Even if we’re uncomfortable or afraid, we can’t rob the world of what we have to say because we are fearful, or tired, or apprehensive.

Facing Aversions to Leadership

The Fear of Public Speaking: Public speaking refers to anytime you speak with the public, not just in front of large groups. The fear of public speaking can come from many sources, past negative experiences, lack of confidence in your message, feeling unprepared, or self-consciousness about your own skills of expression. Some fears of speaking to the public may stem from past trauma, if you have experienced a traumatic event it can make it very difficult to use your voice with people you do not know. If you struggle with a fear of public speaking, take a look at why you might be feeling that anxiety. Generally if we can come to the root of a reaction, we can have more control over it. This empowers us to plan proactively, instead of being stuck in the cycle of reacting.

Exhausting Mind, Body, and Spirit: Leadership can be exhilarating. When you are connecting with others and sharing new ideas you foster a tremendous atmosphere for creativity. Leadership can be exhausting. Constantly investing yourself in new ideas, projects, and people can be overwhelming. It is important to focus on quality instead of quantity. The best leaders also build up those around them instead of focusing on how their individual contribution is going to make everything better. Authenticity is another important key to avoiding exhaustion as a leader. I don’t like to look at authenticity as a “get of jail free card” to be unprofessional or rude. Authenticity is about being the best version of yourself that you can be, and doing anything else can be very taxing.

Feelings of Apprehension: One of the leading causes of apprehension is fear of peer rejection. It is important to build strong relationships with your peers, but you should be guided by an internal compass of self-awareness. The opinions of others should not determine the validity of your ideas or your self-worth. Another source for apprehension can be what is referred to as the “imposter syndrome.” Taken from a five year study conducted by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes from the University of Georgia, it is described as a feeling of, “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable, or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” The best way to deal with the imposter syndrome is to allow those feelings to pass when they arise, and to not discount what you are doing as unimportant.

There is a lot of pressure in early childhood education to stay in the traditional role of teacher or caregiver. Our ability to empathize and care for those around us is part of what gives us the potential to be great leaders.  It is important for us to focus on our schools, our industry, and our communities as a whole. It needs to be socially acceptable for early childhood educators to take on leadership roles, and we should not allow any aversions to leadership to hold us back from conveying our message and helping others.

There are many ways that you can be a leader. Leadership in areas large and small can impact the world for the better. Embrace leadership opportunities with coworkers, students, your children, and your community. Be aware of what may cause you fear, and plan proactively to face it. Invest yourself wisely, and remain authentic. Provide leadership with an internal purpose that can’t be swayed by what others think, or even more so, what you perceive they think about you.

Thank you for reading Early Education Plantation. I appreciate your likes, comments, shares, and discussion! I am always interested in visiting with others, whether they agree with what I say or want to provide a different perspective! It is only through communicating and connecting with others that we formulate change!

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One thought on “An Aversion to Leadership

  1. I was never in a officer position until I joined PTA when asked to run for an office, I was very afraid to do so but made a last minute decision (very last minute.) to run. I ended up being on the board in various positions for over 5 years and I understand everything you were saying from when you were 11. However, it helped me come out of my shell and become a much stronger leader. I learned to stay strong on what was a necessity to do so, but to listen and compromise when it was for the best to meet the goals at hand. It was actually a most exhausting but fun and educational experience.

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