Connection

How do we connect with people? I have been thinking about human connection a lot lately and how much it has changed. We lost the ability of physical intimacy, dropping by our friends or family member’s house just for a short visit, and late-night food runs with our friends.

People say that technology radically changed the way we communicate and connect. But I don’t think anyone predicted that there would be a pandemic that would force us to physically distance from one another. Life in this pandemic has severely altered how we as humans can connect. For a good chunk of this time, the way I viewed this shift in connection was that it was gone and I was not sure if or when we would get it back.

But over the last few weeks, I think I have proven myself wrong. Yes, connection has changed dramatically, but it hasn’t gone away and it probably never will because humans are social.

Connection has changed in that the small interactions and conversations we would have throughout our days are gone. Normally, it wouldn’t matter because connection would come in some other form. Through this pandemic, I have noticed that those small snippets of my day brought me joy. And not having those small works conversations in the office, or the chit chat with the barista or even the random conversation with someone on the street has left me feeling a little less connected to other people and the world in general. However, even though I lost those small moments of connection, I find the connection I am experiencing now is more profound, deep and true. Not only myself but those around me are making an extra effort to reach out and have the scary, vulnerable and raw conversations we used to be to busy to have.

So yes, connection in a lot of ways has halted to a stop. But in other ways, true and authentic connection has increased. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my chit chats with the barista and having a good laugh with people I only know from class. But if we want to keep connecting with others, we have to adapt. If it means more face times, zoom calls or phone calls, then so be it! What I have come to realize is that connecting with people never stops or fully goes away, but it changes or shifts dramatically without our consent. The only way to keep it and to have it mean something is if we lean into the new way of connecting.

Connection comes in weird waves and it changes without notice. The only way we can satisfy that need we have as humans is to change along with it. Connection does not go away if we keep trying to connect with people.

Leadership

The concept or idea of what it means to be a leader has developed in a strange way. When we talk about leadership in a generalized way, we almost forget that the people we consider leaders are human. We forget that the way they present themselves to the public might not be who they are, but this has somehow led to a stereotypical idea of what a leader should be. If I may say so, this idea we have created about what a leader should be is contradictory, cold and distant. Stereotypically speaking, a leader is someone outspoken, assertive, intelligent and calculative. That’s it. Of course, there are many more adjectives to describe a leader, but they mostly fall into this category that makes the person seem less human. How on earth did we create this idea of a leader? Why did we create this idea of a leader?

I have been told time and time again that certain qualities that I have need to be toned down. If I want to be a leader, I need to be more calculative. I need to be more assertive, but not bossy because people don’t like a bossy woman. I need to stop letting my emotions get in the way of my decisions, even though I don’t consider myself a very emotional person. I have been told that to be a leader I need to give up who I am and enter into this mould that has been created where there is only one way to be a leader. 

Recently I took a leadership test and one of the leadership styles was empathy. For my entire life, everyone has told me that if I am too empathetic, or if I care too much and can’t approach situations with the appropriate amount of distance and in an analytical way, then I should just stop trying to do anything. Because it seemed that the only way to be a leader was to be objective, calculative and analytical – when I am none of that in real life, they are in no way my strong suits. No one ever encouraged me to take my qualities and my empathy and use it for good.

When my leadership style result was empathy, I was taken aback. Because for my entire life I have been told that that quality in me was never going to get me far and that I could never lead. Leading with your heart isn’t a bad thing, and it should be never be understood as such. There are times where we need our minds to think predominantly but leading with your heart is not a weakness. The ability to feel the pain and the suffering and understand the motives behind why people do things is a gift that the world needs more of.

What I have come to learn is that leadership isn’t about how well you can check off the boxes of a predetermined idea that has been cemented in our brains by society. Leadership is about leading as you are, with what you got and being vulnerable and having courage while doing so. I highly suggest you check out Brenee Brown for more information on leadership.

The strongest type of leader you can be is when you are leading with who you are, and not who you think you should be. Lead with your strengths, but also with your weaknesses. Lead with your heart and your emotions, but also your brain. Lead with who you are at your core and the impact you will have on others, and the examples you will set for those around you will be life changing for your community and the world.   If you need some examples or inspiration turn to your local community organizations, your schoolteachers, your bosses, managers, parents, friends, and so many others! Turn to the people who are on the ground every day making sure that people are encouraged, that they are cared for and that they will excel in their individual lives. Those are the leaders we need more of in the world, not the ones who perpetuate this idea that you need to be a certain way to be a leader.