We all know this awkward moment when we get introduced with the wrong title. At that very moment, would you say something? As for me, no, I wouldn’t. It kind of feels pretentious not just to stand there and correct the person, but also to claim a title not previously associated with me.

Dear fellow Toastmasters, guests and friends, if we are honest, most of us experience the same icky feeling, especially when it is about the title leader. Several studies have shown that particularly female-identifying people, members of minority ethnicities and those with lower educational degrees show clear and strong adversity toward the concept of leadership for themselves. Many stated the attributes that are generally associated with a leader as a reason.

To illustrate that, I would like to introduce you to the concept of LEADER as an acronym, with L standing for loud, the first E for excellent, A for authoritative, D for decisive, the second E for ego-driven and R for rational.

So, who do I envision when thinking about a loud, excellent, authoritative, decisive, ego-driven and rational leader?

It is a person that demands attention when they step into a room. That happens loud, with the volume of their voice or their physical presentation and presence. They usually show some kind of excellence. It could include previous high-profile achievements in their field or a picture-perfect CV listing just the finest universities and top-notch recommendations. They are authoritative by setting the tone. It’s about their vision, and we all better just make it work. The decisiveness rings a similar tone. A leader is usually the person making the decision, saying who stays, who goes, who is right and who is wrong. Them being ego-driven presents generally in the way of understanding everything just being about them. It took them time and effort to get into the leadership position and the connected social status, so all the work better makes them look good and catapults them to their next career goal. With them, it’s all about rational reasoning. The numbers show performance but don’t give space for the human.

When hearing this description, I guess you can think of at least one such leader. Am I right? Now, I would like to give you a second to envision a leader you would love to be around.

For me, such a leader is a person that, to stay acronym, laughs. Feeling and sharing joy is a base human practice that, unfortunately, gets forgotten way too often in today’s hierarchies. It’s someone who empowers. So, it’s not about the recognition of their performance but about enabling the people around them to develop and grow up to their highest abilities. It’s a person that is affective by choosing the experience of shared humanity and emotion over those end-of-the-quarter numbers. It’s someone diligent who is not too delicate to roll up those sleeves and get the work done. My ideal leader is emphatic. They have an open ear and understanding of what is going on in the life of others. And finally, they would be radiating. Like sunlight, they would touch the lives of others, make a difference for them and warm their days when life gets tough.

Does this picture of a leader feel better than the loud, excellent, authoritative, decisive, ego-driven and rational one? And, does it change your mind about if you would claim your title?

For me, it would. So, with this in mind, I feel more than comfortable calling myself a laughing, empowering, affective, diligent, empathic and radiating leader. I believe that all of you are leaders in your very own ways.