Throughout my school years, I was labelled as a natural leader and a role model. In sports, I was a captain, in class and other activities I was the team leader. My rebellious streak was seen as a strength, my curiosity and need to get the root of a problem were seen to add value and my different perspective was thought to be of interest and in providing great insight.
As I started my management career as a Trainee Manager, I still remember the coloured folders I was tasked with working through. As each task was demonstrated and signed off by my boss, my competence as a manager was highlighted by the signatures in the boxes. At times though, the leadership strengths that had been appreciated so much whilst I was in school, curiosity, perspective, searching for the root cause and rebellious streak were ‘not the way we do things around here’. I was appreciated and valued, but my intuitive nature now needed data to back up my gut feel, my curiosity was quashed, and all of the skills and behaviours that had been credited during the selection process, were being more and more shadowed by ‘this is what a true leader looks like, can you try and be more like the rest of us?’
I adhered, to a point. I wanted to be valued, I wanted to be a good leader, I wanted to fit, I wanted to succeed.
As my career progressed and I became a leader, I participated in leadership development programmes. The programmes were full of frameworks and checklists of what a leader looked like, the tasks that leaders carried out, how they spoke, how they presented, how they produced reports and managed budgets and how they ran team meetings. This coupled with behavioural frameworks linked to company values said how I should behave and speak and think as a leader.
Many a time I was told to leave my home life at the door, not to show emotions in meetings, not to question, not to challenge, to only make decisions if I had data to back it up and on one occasion I was even called into the Deputy CEO’s office to be told to never question the CEO again in a meeting where other people were present, that was not the done thing.
On many occasions I was told to action decisions that were unethical, I was told to shut up and put up, I was told to lie to people until the time was right to make any formal announcements – my personal values of integrity, fairness and justice were being pushed deeper and deeper into the depths of my soul, only to be allowed out when work me became home me, and the persona and mask of the working day were thrown on the floor along with my suit when I got home.
In 2013, as I was recovering from my burnout, a lightbulb was flicked on. All of these years of working against my values, being told to leave my real self at the door and ticking boxes to be a great leader, had taken their toll. No longer could I continue to live, work and lead in a way that wasn’t true to me. I had to align to my true self, to live, work and lead from my core and to not compromise who I am in order to meet the boxes on a framework that was created decades beforehand.
In this recovery phase, I considered where in my life I was misaligned, and what I needed to do to bring myself back to myself.
I found my four core-ners, the four core-ners of Rebellious Leadership; Self, Relationships, Work and World, where there are no tick-boxes on how to live, no masks to be worn and no part of me that needed leaving at the door.
I rediscovered by true self. My rebellious, insightful, curious, intuitive, introverted, empathic and highly sensitive self. The parts of me that I had been encouraged to hide because they were not seen to be leadership traits. Leaders don’t show emotion, they are extroverts with excellent presentation skills, strategic thinking and are great at managing budgets.
My ability to create relationships built on mutual trust and respect, through listening, curiosity and that worked through the superficial to the great depths of what makes people tick, became truly valued relationships. Relationships that matter.
I aligned to the real love I have for my work. The difference I want to make, the ways in which I can help to change the world of work. Work that’s aligned to my values. Work that matters. Work that gets me out of bed in the morning. Work that makes me feel fulfilled.
At the start of my career I had wanted to change the world of work. I wanted to inspire, to lead with my true leadership strengths and to stop people having to live through the Monday to Friday dying syndrome that so many people experience on a weekly basis. I realised that I wanted to make an impact on the world. That my desire to change the world of work was more than a nice to have, and that it’s a key part of me. In my family, in my community, with charities, committees and voluntary roles, I was having an impact on the world, on my world.
When we lead from our core, from who we truly are, at our core, we reconnect our four core-ners and we become whole again. Through our self, relationships, work and world, when aligned, we no longer need the masks, we don’t need to leave parts of ourselves at the door, we don’t need to hide, we don’t need to tick a box and we don’t need to mould ourselves to be someone else’s version of a leader.
When we presume that leading through fear, or by command and control, or think that leadership is about having power over people, we miss what leadership is truly about.
Leadership is a privilege, it’s about lifting people up, trust, respect, seeing the person in front of us and recognising that their unique skills and talents are what makes them unique. When we lead from our core and recognise that our own four core-ners are what makes us unique as leaders, we not only see, but we appreciate and value the uniqueness of the people we lead, and it’s through this that we change the world of work.
Your four core-ners are what make you a successful leader.
When you know who your true self is, you make decisions that are right. Your true self and your core values become your true North. No longer can you lead in a way that isn’t authentic, honest and real.
Through knowing and understanding your true self, your relationships have meaning. All of your relationships. You realise who is important, who matters and you connect much more deeply with others because you are connected much more deeply with yourself.
When you know your true self and you have relationships that matter, you bring this meaning into your work. You want that to make a difference. You realise it’s about more than power and status, it’s about making a difference, making a positive impact and being a leader that creates workplaces that put people first.
And when your true self has relationships that matter and work that creates meaning, you want to make the world a better place. Your world can be your immediate world, your family, your friends, or your community. It could be your neighbourhood, your town or your city or it could be that you want to change the world on a bigger scale.
When we burn the tick-boxes, handbooks and frameworks that have defined leaders for decades, we become the leader that the world needs today. And when we become the leaders that the world needs, aligned to our core and with our four core-ners as a whole, the leader that our people need, we change the world of work.
Want to get clear on your four core-ners? Find details of my coaching packages at www.kellyswingler.com and book a discovery call
She leads and coaches with an open heart, an open mind and has the courage to challenge the status quo and do things differently so that we can all love our roles, find balance in our lives and so that we can all change the world of work for the better.