If you look online for a list of the top human fears it brings up a variety of search results. Most of the lists have similarities, it just depends on how that person or group has interpreted the ‘data’. One fear that comes up a lot in the lists and is also one that we’d all have experienced in our lives is the fear of speaking in front of others. On many lists it can sit right at the top at number 1 (higher than death – as Jay Leno famously said, “I guess we’d rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy.”) It’s not surprising then that many Year 5 and Year 6 students that we support put their hands up when asked towards the beginning of a program if they are discouraged from seeking leadership opportunities because of this.
“All speaking is public speaking whether it’s to one person or a thousand.” – Roger Love
Being fearful isn’t the issue. We all experience fear. The issue is that we as individuals and groups can equate leadership with this one particular role. We see Prime Ministers, Presidents, Principals and other visible ‘leaders’ speaking in front of others all the time. Our lens then is influenced by their position equaling one particular function; rather than encompassing the fullness of thoughts, words and actions that accompany anyone’s journey of striving to make a difference. This aspect of the lens we view leadership through is one of the things that keeps us motivated as we engage, challenge and inspire the next generation of difference makers.
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” – James Humes
When recently setting up for the third program day with a client school I had some interested Year 4 students come up and ask me what I was doing and what the particular equipment I was laying out was for. As I explained what experiences the Year 5 cohort were involved in I was met with a peculiar look and honest question from one boy. ‘Why are you doing it with the whole grade then if it’s about leadership?’ This question opened up a great conversation with the Year 5 cohort of students (90 of them) later as I told them about how my day had started. They confidently explained to me the multitude of ways that each of them can embody leadership (individually and collectively) without the need to be wearing a badge or standing on a stage leading assembly.
“A good speech is like a pencil; it has to have a point.” – Author Unknown
We are all influenced by what we see, feel and hear within our journeys of potential. It’s why top down thinking comes so naturally to us throughout all the complexity that we navigate each and every day. We internalise particular beliefs, ideas and patterns of behaviour from our experiences and the ‘knowledge’ gained from external sources. Remembering that we can choose a lens that sees the fullness of leadership opens us up to purposefully leading. When overwhelm or fears associated with any part of choosing to lead appears (like speaking in front of others) we have the opportunity to come back to ‘why’; then courageously, compassionately, interdependently and authentically navigate our way through whatever it is that is in front of us.
“The one thing that you have that nobody else does is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live only as you can.” – hplyrikz.com