mental engineering

by Olga Reinholdt
Meditation Teacher, Mental Engineer, and Author
I've never been that interested in being a leader. I've always been an ardent explorer of human psychology, behavior and what makes the difference in lives from within. Leadership however never even crossed my mind as a value.

I'm originally from a post-USSR country, Kazakhstan, and I moved to America just a few years ago, at a fairly mature age. When I moved I was already a wife, a mother, an owner of a few business projects, a recognized specialist in several fields.

After migration I remained a wife and a mother, but everything that had to do with my career had to stay back in Kazakhstan. America was a brand new start. I was starting with a blank page.

The beauty of a blank page is that you can really draw anything on it. Starting a career from scratch is challenging, but on the bright side you can fully indulge in the excitement from a new shiny object. At least for some time.

So now that I could choose anything, I decided to satisfy my natural interest in human psychology and behavior. Psychology degree didn't seem very appealing, so I found life-coaching training program to join. Life-coaching seemed to be that very thing I was interested in my whole life, but didn't even know it existed as a discipline.

So I joined a life-coaching school with aspirations to work with mind, emotions, behavior on a rather practical level. Alongside with the "cool stuff", I discovered I was going to get "leadership training".

Wait, wait, wait, leadership? Who cares about leadership?

Turned out everybody cared about leadership, except for me.

"Any of the students have questions?"

"I do. We've been talking about assuming leadership and training for leadership for hours, what the heck is leadership?"

"You will find it out"

"Ok, I like finding out"

What I did found out is that leadership really is a thing in America. And because it's a thing the concept is being taken for granted and became utopic.

The more I looked into leadership material, like books, articles, lectures, and so on, the more I realized that there's some paradox going on.

On the one hand it seems like everybody feels entitled to be a leader. Maybe even obliged to be a leader, which was my case at the life-coaching training. I never cared about being a leader whatsoever, but shush, you can't say that here at the leadership training.

On the other hand what is generally perceived as a "leader" looks like some unicorn in an expensive suite, romanticised and too good to be true.

Let's be honest, if you think about yourself as a leader, don't you have a tingling feeling of persisting doubt: "am I actually good enough for it"?

"Those things I wined about yesterday, leaders don't do that… Those chores I avoid every day for the last two months, leaders don't avoid things… Those people I had an argument with, leaders don't engage in arguments…"

To me it felt like I had to choose: continue the torture of neurotic perfection, or refuse from the whole idea of being a leader. Turned out neither one was a true solution.

The problem with leadership is not whether one can become a leader or not. The problem with leadership is in the very assumption, that one needs to BECOME a leader, as if something isn't there yet.

If "being a leader" is associated with certain qualities, then you can try to become one all you want, you will never feel like you're enough.

If "being a leader" is understood as nothing more than simply being your true self, then the game changes. Your model of "leadership" now allows to be weak, disorganized, emotional, scared, timid, quiet, shy, not-so-reach, insecure, indecisive, spontaneous… It allows to avoid people when you don't feel like talking to anyone, to shrug your shoulders and leave when you don't feel like being assertive, to skip a workout when you don't feel like sweating and hurting.

Speaking of hurting: when you can allow yourself to just be a leader instead of constantly trying to become a leader, you can feel hurt. You don't have to pretend you don't. You can even act upon it. And no, it doesn't compromise your integrity, it just means you're human.

Now the best part is: every "weakness" brings along a strength. You don't live from integrity when you try to be all the "good" things and show up as if you've got the whole life figured out.

You live from integrity when you embrace everything that you really are, everything that you feel, everything that you don't want to do in life, everything that makes you unique.

This is when you start seeing your true value a leader: the natural talents you can offer to yourself and to the world around you.

Some turn out to be very well organized and disciplined, but because they also hate small talk and time-wasters they don't socialize "enough".

Some can really take a team to the better future, but because they step into the unknown, they are not confident "enough".

Some can move crowds with words, songs, images so emotional, it crack souls open, but because they are very emotional people themselves, they are not reliable "enough".

And somehow this "not enough" doesn't matter, because the true value is there.

This list of examples can be extended to billions, because in reality there are as many subtle leadership patterns, as there are people. The point of it all is: you already ARE a leader in your own, very unique way.

There is no such practical thing as "becoming a leader", it's a culture-wide lie, that only produces insecurities and neurotic behaviors. Being a leader begins with embracing everything, that you really are, including the not-so-popular traits, seeing the big picture of the real YOU without judgement or assessment, and finding that authentic value you naturally have to offer to those around you.

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