It’s a funny old chestnut, Leadership. It sounds so grand and important. In fact, as a youngster I wanted it for myself. Those, it appeared to me, who were given such a badge of honour, positively glowed with the warmest of light. They were lifted above us earthly girls, fixed to the ground with our lack of leadership skills, our heavy lace-up brogues and our triple-layered (for safety) regulation greys, and they never came back down again. I met them in corners with members of staff, or prefects, or team leaders, discussing something important in hushed tones, corners I rounded in an un-leaderly, and often late dash to the next fixture in my school diary. They would both stand in a conspiratorial silence, one that positively burgeoned with importance, as I hurtled by, knowing two things for sure – that I would meet some disgrace for running in passageways, and that my bottom jumped around way too much inside those earthly greys.
When they said to me that they were sorry I was leaving the school because, did I realise that they were going to ask me to be Music Prefect next school year……I knew what they were up to, asking me AFTER I had announced with barely concealed joy, that I had now collected my 7 O Levels and was abandoning my brogues for ever. If I had said……Oh, ok then, I will stay, they would all have fainted clean away and I would have finally become a leader, one they may well have regretted inviting into a corner.
A few minutes later, as a newly engaged farmer’s wife-to-be, I pondered leadership once more. This farmer with whom I was about to spend the rest of my life, needed some serious leadership. For a start, he didn’t want to be led at all and most certainly not by me. Well, ok, I can be patient. After all, look at how he does what his mummy says, albeit now and then, but ‘now and then’ looked promising to an over-zealous young woman (child, really) with a fat sapphire on her forever finger and plans already laid out in the loft of her mind. He argued with every plan I brought forward for discussion. He made all the ‘big’ decisions with automonic confidence. He dropped his clothes on the floor, the ones he deemed ready for washing, which was usually two weeks later than my deeming. He wore white crimpolene flares. There was a lot of work to be done.
Leadership isn’t nagging. Ok, ok, so what is leadership then and why can’t I lead him?
Answer……he doesn’t want it and, listen girlie, he is as determined as you on this matter.
Once this sank in, was resisted vehemently, caused endless rows and overly slammed doors, removal of priveleges and absolutely no cake for tea never mind the honey, I remember falling into a black depression. My mother, who also tried to lead my dad, who also had no intention of being led, had the advantage. Dad was away all week so that she could lead all five of us, the neighbours, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick-maker to her heart’s delight. Then, when Dad came home at weekends, she could probably just about manage to shelve her leaderly urges for two days until she popped him once more on a plane to Dubai or Italy or Africa or wherever his veterinary consultant skills were currently in demand. But my husband was always at home rejecting leadership, so I had to think sideways.
43 years later I have a crick in my neck and still no husband running along behind. I ask myself, is that what I want? And the answer (quick learner, me) is absolutely not. What I want is actually just to lead myself, not to lead, and not to be led, although that bit is very much according to my current mood swing. There are times, many times, when I do want him to lead me, and love the feeling of safety and protection his leadership brings. When it goes wrong are those times I feel controlled, which is, of course, the same for him. My tutting over dropped clothes, or whatever, serves only to make him feel controlled, and therefore to resist.
Aha…….now we are getting somewhere!
So, if I can’t control him and don’t want him to control me, and he feels the same, why does this need to lead still raise it’s discordant cry? Because dear sweet daft woman, it is yourself you need to lead.
Well how can I lead me? I am me and me is me and that’s three of us already.
Yes, and you can lead all of them, all the mees, as much as you like, to your hearts desire, knock yourself out!
Thinking, reflecting on this bonkers truth, opens many doors to me, to all mees present. If, in an argument, I only consider my own voice and the content of my retorts, my behaviour, I am in control. I am leading. I don’t need to lead the other (the one who is so obviously wrong) in this situation. I only have to lead myself.
Yes, but, will you listen to what he is saying! It’s complete tripe and EVERYONE would ALWAYS agree that he NEVER gets it.
Hmmm……so many absolutes. But life and love isn’t about who is wrong or right, always or never. It isn’t about what happened in the past and the past is only a minute behind me. It is about leadership of myself, and if I can get that right, after a few, or many clumsy crashings through the thorn and thicket of life, then I just may find, to my eye-wide surprise that someone is following on behind.