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  • Writer's pictureAmy Neal

Bravery not expertise

Once again, our DeKalb LEADS cohort members are sharing their expertise! Thanks, Amy, for sharing your perspective on leadership in last week's #LEADbyExample column. In her role at DeKalb Central Schools, Amy has seen young leaders lean into their strengths and really shine! Click the link below to read more about what Amy views as the necessary skills you must have in order to lead!

A pervasive myth about leadership that I’ve seen busted time and time again is that strong leaders must first acquire all the skills and knowledge of an expert before they are ready to lead.

This false notion keeps talented individuals from stepping into leadership, fearing they are not yet ready.

As the author Lemony Snicket once said, ‘If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.”

Lemony Snicket, the pen name of American novelist Daniel Handler knew the truth. We’ll never feel ready to lead. The most important leadership characteristic is not expertise, it’s bravery.

I have the unique opportunity to coach middle and high school students on their strengths and future goals. In these conversations with today’s youth, I am humbled by their leadership potential. The biggest barrier they face is thinking they have to have it all figured out before they begin. I’ve seen the most growth in their skills when they let go of feelings of inadequacy and just jump in and try. Once the fear of failure is out of the way and they’ve given it a go, the educators supportive adults around them can provide feedback and encouragement to them as they move closer to their goals.

My own leadership journey has followed the same path. I’ve been lucky enough to have leaders in my career that have seen potential in me and nudged me to step into leadership roles when I myself did not feel ready. They gave me feedback when I stumbled, but always paired it with grace. That encouragement gave me confidence to keep growing. Real growth does not happen in our comfort zone. We need to walk to the edge and feel the rush of excitement mixed with fear and take the leap anyway. As author and researcher Dr. Brene Brown says, “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, you cannot have both.”

As I’ve begun the transition from mentee to mentor, I’ve made a conscious effort to be the nudger to those younger and less experienced than myself. Watching our young leaders step into leadership for the first time is a joy to behold. Their courage is contagious. It inspires me to keep growing and challenging myself.

As a lifetime resident of DeKalb County, I have hope for the future of our community. Our young people have innovative ideas, incredible talents and skills. They may not be quite ready to lead, but with the grace and support of the encouraging adults around them, they will step into leadership roles with passion and purpose.

Amy Neal, is a member of the DeKalb LEADS class of 2022.

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