I am trying to make something of myself. I am in Nigeria and have little access to opportunity.
I struggle with not having a role model to look up to because of my environs and the kind of people within my sphere. I have a desire to stand out as a woman, but I feel trapped like one going in a circle.
I love teaching and making an impact with people I come in contact with. But in my case, circumstances have kept me from getting the necessary education and skills for my dreams. I want to polish what I have and grow in it, but I need someone I can look up to who can help me be a better leader.
Any advice you have for me would be appreciated.
Looking for a Role Model
Dear Looking for a Role Model,
I have thought a lot about your situation, and I keep coming back to the same thoughts. I understand that your circumstances have prevented you from getting the education you need to pursue your dreams, but it does seem that you are in a decent situation now. It is natural to want to find someone to look up to, but if you can’t, you are just going to have to invent your own special brand of being a successful you.
I think it will serve you well to look within for your polish and to grow yourself as a leader. You have to decide what you think is important in a leader and then assess whether or not you have those qualities. If you do, you can build on them. If you don’t you can begin to cultivate them. Try to look at yourself through others’ eyes and ask yourself: Where do I have rough edges? Where might I shift my behaviors to be the leader I wish to be? In terms of finding role models, it might be hard to find one person who is everything that you hope to be. But you can identify one trait or skill that you find appealing in a person and emulate just that one thing.
I have always relied on books for the knowledge I lacked, and it has served me well. Of course, there are a million leadership books, so where to start? Naturally, I am going to recommend you start with two of my favorites by my father-in-law, the great leadership guru Ken Blanchard: Leading at a Higher Level and Servant Leadership in Action. You might also think about taking the Values in Action Character Strengths assessment. It is free online and can be accessed here. This assessment will help you to see yourself and what is already wonderful about you.
It sounds like you are on your own, my dear, so you get to make it up by yourself. No one is going to tell you what to do or how to do it. This is lonely, yes—but also liberating. Trust yourself, trust your instincts, and keep moving toward your goals and what interests you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. And don’t give up.
About the author
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!