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The Kindred Letters: You don’t need to be a “leader"

Published about 1 year ago • 6 min read

Dear Reader,

You don’t need to be a “leader". At least, not in the way people usually use that word.

As the author, Victoria Erickson, writes: “Some of us don’t want to be tough alpha leaders. Some of us just want to write and wander the garden and breathe in the sky and nourish and nurture and quietly create new pathways and live our lives as our art. To know the earth as poetry.”

Last week, a reader named Jo Saia asked me a question, versions of which I hear ALL THE TIME:

“I recently joined an art association board, and we had a zoom meeting last evening. Although I felt a bit of pressure, I did not volunteer to be one of the officers. This board had 5 members leave recently, and several of them were officers. I was ambivalent about joining the board in the first place, but thought maybe it would be a learning experience. Now I question whether I'm really board material. I'm usually the quiet one, for the most part, in meetings. And this morning I'm feeling shame at not volunteering, at comparing myself to even newer members who volunteered to be officers….
I'm truly struggling this morning. Is it introversion? Is it lack of confidence? Is it wanting to isolate too much? Is it a character defect? Am I justifying not getting too involved in anything?...
I do love art. But I’m not so sure about art boards.”
[reprinted with Jo’s permission]

Here’s what I asked Jo – and what I would ask you, when you find yourself in a similar situation:

If you answered (b) to these questions, then maybe you have your answer.

But! Sometimes we need to do things that make us uncomfortable - for the sake of people, work, causes we care about. I do this quite often, for the sake of my writing work (though I always make sure to schedule in plenty of time to recharge and relax, after I’m done).

You would never have read my books, or received these letters from me, if I hadn't done a gazillion uncomfortable things in the service of my great loves: writing, reading, thinking, and connecting.

So the question is: is this one of those times?

(I also say “no” to a gazillion other opportunities, because they don’t fit into my own personal version of a good life.)

And finally: We should all expand our definitions of what a leader actually is. Which is to say that Jo can choose to positively influence this art organization, and the world in general, whether or not she decides to become an officer on the board.

How about you, Reader? Do you enjoy leadership roles, in the conventional – or unconventional -- use of the word “leader”? Do you feel pressure to be a leader of one kind or another? Do you wish simply to live your life in peace – “to know the world as poetry,” as Victoria Erickson put it?

I would love to hear your answers to these questions. (I read every single one of your e-mails, and do my best to reply to some of them.)

You may also want to check out my books and courses (info below), all of which deal deeply with these questions.

Love,

Susan

P.S. Do you know someone who loves quiet, depth, and beauty? If so, please forward this Kindred newsletter! It's meant for them!

If you were forwarded this email, click here to sign up!


Want more like this? You might love my books and courses.

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The Kindred Letters: Join 525K Subscribers

by #1 NY Times bestselling author Susan Cain

For introverts, and all kindred spirits who prefer quiet to loud, depth to superficiality, and sensitivity to cool.

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