The Truth About Leadership

Leadership is a concept I have struggled with for a lot of my life, both conceptualising and emulating. As an athlete, all teams ever talk about is leadership- the importance of having good leaders and what that looks like.

A couple of years ago I had the privilege to see what true leadership looks like. Mika Vukona is a New Zealand basketball legend and one of the most respected players in Oceania. Mika emulated every single thing I thought a leader should provide. He was tough on guys who weren't getting the job done but always pulled them along, never pushing them down. He gave time to every single person that was in the gym to practice, whether you were a starter, practice player or support staff.

I walked away from those sessions a better person and it allowed me to re-evaluate what leadership was about. Over the past two years or so, I have really analysed some of the leaders in my life and in todays world.

In February of this year, I met the next key link in my leadership chain- Jason Irving. I had been looking into some personal development courses to continue in my growth as an individual. After looking at quite a few individuals and programs, I was introduced to Jason and after one meeting with him I knew right then and there this was the right fit for me.

Since that time, I have drawn the key qualities of leadership both in our personal lives and the carry over to our professional lives. Through constantly analysing leadership, I have identified how I believe to be the best leader moving forward.

When I was in college, as every other team does, we spoke often about leadership. Luckily for me, there was a lot of solid leadership throughout the program, from coaches through to players. What I did a poor job of recognising, was leaders are not perfect.

I always felt to be a leader or captain, one must make very few, if any, mistakes. My logic was simple, to be a leader, you could not tell another person how to avoid a mistake if you may end up making the same error on your own part. When I type that out and read it back I realise just how ridiculous it is. Imagine thinking that leadership is being perfect? If that was the case we would never have anyone lead us.

Leadership is accountability. It is about owning the mistakes you have made and accepting the error for what it is. Leadership is putting in the effort to correct that mistake, doing everything in your power to avoid it from happening again and becoming a better player or person for it.

If you take accountability for your actions, you will inspire others to do so as well. You begin to create the belief that failure is a possibility. Now some may read that and think, "well I don't want my leader to show me how to fail. I want to see how to succeed!" That makes sense, but show me an individual who has never failed.

Michael Jordan has six wins in the NBA finals and no losses. Perfection, right? Wrong. Michael Jordan did not make the finals in his first seven seasons. He failed seven times and seven times he got better. Eventually, he found the success he was searching for and what made him become the player he was.

Personally, my passion is working with people and allowing them to grow and get the most out of themselves. Whether that is helping liberate them from their mental health struggles or giving them the tools to break through to new heights (you would be shocked at how similar those two journeys are) I have found what I love to do.

When I chose to work with Jason, it was largely because of one thing- he told me he did not have it all figured out. He asked me to challenge him with my thoughts and beliefs. He said that we are all battling something, otherwise there would be no point to life.

Every single other person I listened to or was pitched by, told me they would be able to give me all of the answers. They told me they had every single answer and I should just follow them. Could you imagine believing someone that said they had no more problems or negative thoughts?

Leadership and growth are actually one in the same when you are working towards both. To achieve both, you must sacrifice what you believe to be true and accept there are other possibilities in the world.

For many years we believed the earth was flat and it was at the centre of the solar system. Science is constantly evolving and that is what makes us continue to move forward. Why are we not accepting that in our belief system as well? Each and every day we are learning new things about the the effects of mental and emotional trauma and better ways to treat those problems, so why are we so stubborn to look outside of the box as well?

I say all of that to summarise it with this- true leaders do not mislead others. They drop their ego and hear out what others have to say. Leadership is accountability, it is compassion, it is empathy, it is confidence and it is courage to do the right thing at all times- even if that means admitting fault.

When it comes to the mental health and mindfulness field, there's a great misconception amongst the leaders. Every single person who is speaking out about the mind is battling their own internal wars. Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of NLP in the field that is more of a bandaid than an actual benefit and only complicates situations further.

Dealing with those internal issues, modelling vulnerability and working towards liberation from those pressures is leadership, not telling everyone to be happy and ignore the other side of the spectrum. Having those difficult conversations with others and yourself is what growth and leadership is about.

I will use myself as an example. Last night before falling asleep I had this strong feeling of sadness, wishing I could have another conversation with my mom. I could feel that depression creeping in as I was laying there but instead of fighting it, I allowed it to come in. In moments, it passed because I let it be there and I accepted it for what it was.

Now some reading this will think to themselves, "how can you preach about and work with mental health when you have feelings of depression still?" That answer is simple and one I am incredibly proud of- I used to be ruled or consumed by my thoughts of depression. Now they rarely come through me. All because I have worked through what has held me back.

That is growth. That is leadership.

I now have the awareness of how to handle that emotion and what it presents me. That is what pushes me to become a leader in this world, which is something I have always shied away from. I think about who I used to be and how many people are living with those same thoughts and emotions in this world. That is why I push to get my message out there because those people who feel that way deserve to be liberated. I work through my own problems to help and show others how to do the same because we all deserve that peace of mind and in many cases, a second chance.

No one has it all together 100% of the time and it is time we start accepting that, especially from those who are leading. We will never be a finished product and that is okay, too.

It is how we manage these perceived negativities that make us good leaders. Resiliency and awareness are growth and leadership. The measure of one is always calculated when things are difficult, not when they are easy going. Anyone is a good leader when the sailing is smooth. When the seas are rough and times are uncertain, individuals will turn to the leader, the captain, and ask to be guided through the storm. This does not mean the captain may have doubts or fears, it means the captain is courageous enough to believe in their decisions and abilities to get the collective through the storm.

The world is in desperate need of leaders. Real, true leaders who are here for the benefit of others, not just themselves. We all must learn from someone else, so find the person who has been where you want to go, done the things you want to do and be the person you must become to achieve what you want to.

Aspire to be a leader. Aspire to change the world. Aspire to have the courage to do both. Aspire to have the strength to be vulnerable and be the best version of yourself. Aspire to do what they tell you cannot be done. That is leadership.