Have you ever wondered what it means to be a leader? If you take the time to search what defines true leadership you will find a thousand articles and books online, with names ranging from Mahatma Ghandi to Martin Luther King Jr., to Oprah Winfrey, and Mother Theresa.
Its definition states that a leader “holds in command” a group, organization, or country, and guides or inspires others. Most humans tend to relate a leader with the ability to give a good speech, be open and listen to others, and give comfort in times of need. But what are the qualities of a good leader? Can a leader be bred or do you have to be born with the gift?
I for one didn’t consider myself a leader until I was chosen to become a fellow. Despite having the opportunity to work with several non-profits in my natal El Salvador, most of such in accordance with my professional experience in communications, I always assumed that leaders had this title I could only admire but never obtain myself.
Last month my orientation week with Atlas Corps started and at that point, I realized I was surrounded by leaders. Some of them had a background in education, some others in international affairs, and some more in youth development, young men and women like me looking to impact others with their actions.
A few days after, my work with the host organization I was paired up with, started. And again, I knew I was meeting more leaders. Some I had never seen, and some I had already heard from before, but they all had different origins and careers that left me starstruck, but they also had something useful to add to the cause. I’m sure during this fellowship and in my future, the idea of a leader will be changing or let’s say adjusting, but its core meaning will remain the same: to inspire.
We cannot force others to do or to think the way we do, but we can help them understand those differences and work united for the same goals. We can teach them and share our knowledge; we can uplift them to become the best version of themselves, we can empower them to reach out to others and we can set the example working committed to our truth. I also realized that a leader never stops being one, but is always learning and understanding how the world around shifts and never gets tired or discouraged of his or her purpose.
A true leader never loses motivation and is never disconnected from his or her vision. Empathy and creativity are part of leadership, especially when there is teamwork involved.
None of the work we are now contributing as fellows and as alumni could have happened without leaders, so we should also be thankful for those who have come before us.
And be hopeful for those who will come after us, because we are paving the way, each in our own very unique manner, to voice out those issues that move us, that touch us and that inspire us.
Like my other fellow fellows, I’m a leader in the process.