The pitfalls of pigeonholing

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Before Laidlaw, I had long shied away from taking on leadership tasks with confidence. If I did so, I would with the caveat that I would only take on a leadership role if there was no other candidate. I would ask: is there someone who wants it more? Is there a better suited candidate?  This was reflected in my Laidlaw interview, where I discussed the notions of 'self-leadership' and leading from behind and/or within a team, in contrast with more traditional ideas of leadership - leadership as being necessarily linked to authority, something which Tom Burdge's talk on Leadership and Anarchy disproved. One of the reasons I brought up these ideas was because I had never seen myself as having the stereotypical qualities associated with leadership, so it was safer to tie my own vision with something less overtly authoritative.

However, after taking on a number of leadership roles last year, such as brainstorming and collating the Sway (see image) and joining Makesense, I realised that my experience did not match up with my self-concept. Moreover, after learning about the entrepreneurial personality and taking an online quiz, I realised that my avoidance strategy would not work for much longer - what if my dream opportunity passed me by because I was in denial or too scared, and not for truly pragmatic considerations? I then reflected on what and why I really was avoiding. Part of it was imposter syndrome, and part was just that I did not think I had any particularly special goals worth wholeheartedly pursuing. I realised, in part thanks to the different Laidlaw presentations, that there was nothing special about these other hypothetical candidates which I assumed wanted it more or were better suited. They simply had the bravery to acknowledge their desire and ambition, although that could result in (public) failure or even humiliation, and weren't afraid to sell themselves to get what they wanted. There's not a special inbred quality to entrepreneurship - just a bunch of attributes that can be cultivated and grown.

 

I particularly enjoyed learning about the different categorisations that psychologists have made on the necessary and typical components of a team, and hearing about each required archetypal team member's strengths and contributions reassured me that although I may not have every characteristic of a stereotypical manager or leader, I can still bring my own strengths through what I can contribute, and I can learn from my team members or elevate them when I need other qualities. In fact, leadership can be analysed under a multitude of roles (such as Belbin), and my previous accomplishments and desires have indicated I do fit under some of those rubrics. It doesn't have to be 'out of character' for me to lead. Although I have never seen myself as a creative thinker, someone with business acumen, or someone good at handling stress and responsibility for the livelihoods of others, it does seem that I naturally gravitate towards taking charge, a discovery I made after discussing my progress with my supervisor Mandy Lathan.

In sum, the main lessons I have learnt from these skills, and the challenges that I faced when taking them on, is that confidence and self-belief is more important than acquiring the skills themselves.

Gwendoline

Student, St Andrews

I'm a Philosophy and German student at St Andrews with interests in intersectionality, theory and community-oriented work. Presently, I am interested in colonialism in German public memory, Orientalism in literature and epistemic (in)justice. I would love to talk about ice hockey, ballet and gardening!