Don’t get in the way of others who see you as a leader

When others remark positively on your leadership characteristics, how do you respond?

If you’re like me, not well.

A colleague/friend/mentor recently told me that he sees me as someone who has a strong vision for the future for the nonprofit sector, and that I do work with others who also want to get there. I’m out in front. I’m a sector thought leader.

I did not accept the compliments of ‘visionary’ and ‘futurist’ gracefully. He told me that while I might not see myself as a sector leader, I should not get in the way of others who see me in that light. He thought that I picture my circle of influence as much smaller than it is and could be.

Something for me to chew on. I don’t question my ability, but as an independent actor outside of the nonprofit sector institutional framework, I do question my influence at a high level sometimes. It’s not that I’m not interested in influence at a high level, but it’s not the first lens that I see my work through.

I’m a bit of a “keep your head down and work hard in service of clients and educating others” kind of person. Framing my work in a different, more expansive, light, is not something that comes instinctively.  This obviously relates back to my interest in quiet changemakers–those who do great work and have great influence irrespective of the spotlight.

A better, alternative, response my colleague’s comments might have been

Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say that.

Simply. Acknowledge. The gift.

How do you respond to professional compliments?

When others around you speak of your personal or organizational influence, does it match how you see yourself?

What’s the story others tell about you? What’s the story you tell about you? What’s the story you want others to tell about you? And are you reaching high enough?

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