In leadership, you will always come across challenges especially when dealing with people. Through my experience, I have learned to stay calm under pressure.
One thing I noticed earlier on in my career was that stress is transferable. Many can testify that when your boss (leader) is stressed, subordinates tend to be stressed too. Keeping that in mind, it helps you understand the importance of remaining calm under pressure. As a leader you create followers and followers will ultimately follow your lead.
Leadership is important to me because it is about providing direction. I believe leadership is everywhere not only in our organisations, we have leaders in our personal lives e.g. it takes leadership for parents to raise children, for a country to move forward and have better policies to enable it to govern.
As a leader you have to be aware of your influence and capability. You cannot afford to be biased. The actions you take as a leader have the potential to inspire people and help them become better versions of themselves. This should be your ultimate goal in leadership.
As a leader you have to hold yourself to a high standard. You set the tone for what kind of leader you want to be ranging from your ability to keep time to your personal appearance/presentation. Find a quality that sets you apart from the crowd and develop it. It may be a style of dressing, a charming personality, exquisite taste, etc. It takes effort.
I remember a joke someone made once. They said ‘it’s very rare to see a CEO of a fortune 500 company rush for a meeting because they are late’. You as a leader set the standard that people to associate you with.
I started my career in the aged care industry in 2007. I became a carer while I was studying my Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the Edith Cowan University. There was a moment in my career where I had to overcome self-doubt. When I completed my studies and became a registered nurse, I had a comfortable job working in the industry from one shift to the next. When I finished work, I would go about my personal business.
An opportunity, presented itself where I considered stepping up into a Clinical Nurse Manager/Facility Manager role. When I was a registered nurse, if an issue came up (e.g. staff conflicts occurred during my shift or a family member complained) I would call the Facility Manager and expect them to sort the issue out. Like many people, I had a certain perception of the challenges I thought the job (of Facility Manager) presented. I thought there was no distinct line defining the work and personal life boundary. I doubted that it was something I would manage.
The whole event reminded me of skydiving. When you fly and get to the jumping altitude, you will find yourself questioning your thought process. Why should I jump, what if the parachute fails, who talked me into doing this in the first place? In order to experience the thrill of leadership, you have to jump. That jump is in itself the act of overcoming self-doubt. When I took up the role of Facility Manager, I was jumping at the opportunity and overcoming self-doubt.
Leadership is not limited to your career and industry. It spills over into your community as well. I was recently approached by one of the founding members of the Organisation of Zambians Living in Western Australia and was nominated for the position of Chairperson of the organisation. I did not expect it but I was overwhelmed that someone had identified me as a leader in society. So I jumped at the chance and threw my hat in the ring. We have a strong executive team working to fulfil the objections of the Organisation. According to the 2011 census, there were over 2000 Zambians living in WA and many more have settled here since then. My point is, its moments like these that you also learn to identify yourself as a leader. I am a strong believer that leadership can be learned.
If you are not pursuing your dreams and aiming to achieve your goals, you are literally committing spiritual suicide. You have some abilities and talents that you will never know you have until you give it a shot. So do not be afraid.
Cynthia Wright is a Clinical Consultant for Ageis Aged Care Group, and Chairperson of Zambians Living in Western Australia. She is passionate about leadership, team development, fashion, and supporting the ageing industry in creating amazing clinical resources.