For much of my seventeen year career in corporate America, I have worked hard in defiance of one reality. The reality that in spite of strong performance, great work ethic, and proven abilities, I may never make it any higher in position.
It can be so hard to carry the burden of this feeling. It can be hard to face this reality while celebrating other people’s promotion and job announcements. It’s not that I am envious of them. It’s that I am sad for me. And that’s when I feel like giving up and resigning to the fact that this is how it has always been and this is how it will always be.
The end, right? Nope. The beginning.
This cycle of emotions is one I have struggled through time after time. Reassessing situations and opportunities as if I could have done more or been more. Hearing people tell me how good I am, that I have executive presence, and that I should be leading something somewhere. **Cue side-eye.**
Oh but I am. I am leading right from where I am until I can lead from where I want to be.
But what does that even mean?
Leading from where you are means recognizing that your ability to influence is not based on level, salary, title, pedigree or anything else external. It is not based on the value someone else assigns you, it is based on the value you assign yourself.
Leading from where you are at means taking advantage of opportunities to speak boldly about inequities and to propose solutions for change. It means taking a measure of professional risk to make your presence felt and your voice heard. Then, when opportunity arises, it means actively being a part of the solution and the change.
Leading from where you are means choosing who you show up as. For many years, I would show up as the only Black person in the room. I would lead with that almost apologetically, giving others permission to dismiss me as being a box check or token. When I learned to show up and enter the room as a highly qualified, capable, driven professional with proven track record of delivering results, there wasn’t a box big enough for me to check.
I have said it before. I will say it again. If you are in the room, you belong there AND you can lead there. You just have to remember that you are never just anything or too much of something else. You don’t need to be more of something or to be less of something else.
Just be you. I promise you that is more than enough!