What is a Leader? 

By FLG

I am really excited to announce Sister Fit’s Leadership Identity Series – an interview project that will feature female leaders who I find strong, inspiring, and original. I look forward to meeting leaders from the Muslim community, the fitness industry, and the community at large to highlight the people around us who are unafraid of standing out. 
This series will involve video interviews, written reflections, as well as compelling portraits by James Ip Photography I hope to feature truly original thinkers who pride themselves on not going with the flow, but rather, express themselves fully in spite of the boxes and boundaries that faith, culture, and community can place them in. 
These are leaders who have overcome challenges, faced scrutiny, and dedicated themselves to their mission with focus and commitment.
For me, this project is an exciting exploration into the leadership identity. 
So, what makes someone a leader?
Here are the qualities I look for:

A leader…

1. Doesn’t do things to be liked.

A leader is someone who isn’t afraid to stand out, speak their mind, and get their message across no matter how unpopular their vision may be. A leader has so much belief in what they do, they have to risk wading in the depths of vulnerability and disapproval from the masses in order to achieve their mission. 

2. Understands their privilege and the value of other people’s time.

This takes wisdom, self-awareness, and awareness of others. If you are speaking to a group, you are privileged to be given that time. The attention people give is the most valuable commodity that we have. Showing that you have a quality message means you have respect for your own and other people’s time. 

3. Good intention requires wise application 

Without knowledge, intention is merely a wish. For intention to be effectively applied, a leader needs dedication, belief, and persistence. A leader must study and be dedicated to their cause, believe in themselves,  and be persistent in the face of tribulations along the way. They must  understand HOW to apply their knowledge paired with a righteous intention. What if I wanted to clean your iphone and I put it in the dishwasher? My intention might be a good one, but my application is misguided and void of wisdom. Now your iPhone is destroyed and we’re both feeling pretty badly!

4. Deep empathy plus action.

Having high emotional intelligence is vital for touching the hearts of others. A leader will understand others and have the ability to feel and connect with complex emotions. With this insight, they can then do what is needed. Many people have empathy, but leaders are excellent listeners with a purpose. They take the information they learn through empathy and they do something purposeful with it. 

5. A leader doesn’t tell people what to do — they lead by example. 

We don’t absorb what we’re told – we absorb what we see. We follow examples that we witness and that resonate with us. When I think of the number of times my mother told me to “clean my room” or “do my homework!” I can’t say that her words compelled me to take action…I did  however, observe how she worked day and night seven-days a week in her own business while holding herself together through things that would easily make the average person crumble. That is what I absorbed…the strength of her actions. 

6. Real leadership is not a badge of honour. It’s a burden.

As a leader, you are so burdened by the process of self actualization and the dedication it takes to present your message, you have no other choice than to live out what you know is true. You must venture towards discomfort. In fact, a leader is always in a state of discomfort, trying to figure things out and constantly pushing themselves to grow and evolve into the person they need to become. You know you have the responsibility to speak for those who cannot or are too afraid to speak. If you DO NOT live out your purpose you will carry a much heavier burden because you will know that you’re a coward. You will be denying yourself of your divine purpose. 

7. Leaders don’t say they’re leaders.

They simply are leaders. Period. They are leaders whether they get recognition, look shiny, or not. A leader does not go out of their way to prove who they are. They have a deep confidence that does not live off their Instagram tagline or number of followers. Does a lion need to roar? A lion does not need to prove that they are the king. They already know it.

8. The title “leader” should not be your defining value.

You are defined by the qualities of a leader and what you do. A leader is busy leading and knows that they must constantly hold themselves accountable to a multitude of tasks and reflections. They are focused on their mission and purpose, not their title. 

9. Leaders endure difficult trials and tribulations. They stand the test of time.

A leader will go through many trials that will test them to their core. These trials will require a leader to deeply reflect, go through a process of introspection, and grow. I personally love leaders who rise from the ashes. The more the cards have been seemingly stacked against someone, the more opportunity for their personal development. This is very, very hard work, but all true leaders must work hard.

10. Faith. 

Now you don’t have to believe in God or be religious to be a leader but you MUST have faith. You must have a sense that the path you’re on is the right one. I suppose that for people who are anti-religious, or people who are atheists, we could call this intuition. But, for me, it’s faith. Faith is putting your trust into the unknown or in God to guide you to your divine purpose.
I’m really happy and grateful to be embarking on this exciting project to highlight and showcase some of the local leaders who are selected! You can expect to see beautifully taken photography by James and (hopefully) fun and intimate interviews with women who I consider to be leaders!