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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Leading when you don’t feel like a leader [Wise Wednesday]

I occasionally get asked: “Amina, I don’t feel like a leader (or high achiever), do the ideas you talk about still apply to me and can I use them?” The context of the question tells me the person is usually underestimating themselves. Henry Ford summed up a response like this: “whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re probably right.” Or two thousand years earlier in the bible: “as a (hu)man thinketh, so (s)he is”. Essentially, every wisdom tradition and modern personal development philosophy tells you the same thing: mind your thinking.

Language shapes your possibilities. I remember getting media trained and learning, admittedly with some horror, that whoever owns the story, owns the outcome. Legally, just asking a loaded question can destroy or make a case. So be mindful of the question itself. Own your context and use empowering language. Leadership isn’t a title or identity or even a feeling. It’s a choice, an attitude that guides your actions and a commitment to go forward even if you’re scared. It’s why leadership starts with self-leadership. You have to overcome your own objections to your possibilities at which point others will naturally want to come with you. Nature abhors a vacuum. So a leadership vacuum will be filled by whoever claims it, usually (in the current culture) by someone who isn’t worried about whether they’re a leader or not. In fact, the Dunning-Kruger effect describes how people with low ability overestimate themselves: they’re unlikely to be worrying about whether they’re good enough. So it’s likely that while you’re worrying about whether you’re a leader, someone else has already stepped in who may well be less qualified than you. And, yes, the cultures sucks. But you always have a choice. Personally, I know that my best moments have been when I was willing to do something even when I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. I couldn’t see the full picture or feel much ground beneath my feet. It’s a scary feeling but it’s this precise feeling that draws out courage and therefore leadership. Leadership starts with taking a step: Even when you’re afraid Even when you think you don’t have enough skills (the evidence often being overwhelmingly to the contrary!) Even if you can’t see more than two feet in front of you Even if people will notice Even if people won’t notice Even if you can’t quite guarantee a soft landing. Or any landing. But you show up anyway. What leadership looks like is different moment-to-moment and person-to-person. My client Jane decided to speak up for the first time during a heated departmental debate and stopped everyone in their tracks leading to a much better resolution. On the other hand, my entrepreneur client Fahad chose to create more silence which allowed everyone in a group he’s set up to open up and offer deeply creative business solutions that have led to exciting new projects. Whether you think you’re a leader or not, you’re probably right. What will you choose? :) Announcing: Wise Wednesdays Live! For more than four years I’ve been writing to you to share insights on careers, leadership and the independent life. Now it’s time to hear more of what you have to say and give you a chance to have your questions answered directly. So for a trial period, Wise Wednesdays will be going live on Wednesdays. We’ll start with 30 minutes on Zoom and see how we go. The first theme will be imposter syndrome – answering questions on what it is, how to turn it into a strength and anything that comes up live on the call! Click here to join the Zoom call at 1pm UK next Wednesday 22nd

See you live next week! Amina PLUS, a few things are going on that you can choose from as you create the career, contribution and freedom you want: Free offers

  1. Sign up for the free beta online course Uplevel Your Career: create the role, structure and life you really want in 3 clear steps. Apply for the course here. Starts 27th of July.

  2. Get the Turn Imposter Syndrome into an Asset mini-guide. Download the mini-guide here.

  3. Join the RSA online conversation on 21st century challenges: Perceiving and responding to difference. Sign up for the event here.

Personalised support

  1. Be the first to hear about the next round of Presence Power Possibility: Advance Your Leadership group coaching programme [Join the waitlist here]

  2. Book a VIP day with me to focus on a career transformation, leadership strategy or creating a life of peace and calm. Email

  3. Get 1:1 support from me as your coach, when you’re ready for change. [Fully booked for now]

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