How to Lead Like A Boss

In January, I’ll be starting a program at Georgetown at the Institute for Transformational Leadership, and I’m going to be diving deep on leadership and how to best support those who wish to lead. 

Last night, as I heard Tina Barney talk about and reflect upon her career in photography, she said that the point at which you begin to do something unconsciously is when you know that you’re really starting to master it.

At one point, she noted that editors have learned that she won’t work with them unless she is given total freedom to do what she does best and photograph pursuant to her vision and aesthetic.

It’s Tina’s way, or the highway. And I think that is badass. She spoke with such confidence and clarity about her process, her perspectives and her own work. She often pointed to certain dark areas of  negative space in a photo and would say, “There is something about that that is very important, and I don’t know why.” 

All of this got my brain spinning about how those little statements really reflect how Tina leads, in her professional life and therefore, through her art.

So in no particular order, and drawing inspiration from Tina, here are my thoughts on how to lead, and in truth, what leadership means to me:

Stand in the truth of who you are and what you hold dear. Those things that are important to you, but you can’t articulate why? Fight for them. Advocate for them. They are yours, and they are important for a reason. Who cares if anyone else understands why, what matters is that you understand.

Prioritize yourself and your core beliefs. Taking care of yourself and maintaining your own resilience are critical to actually being able to do something good in this world.

Make the system work for you. You only get this one life. Work hard, work hard to make the hard work something that inspires you, and be sure to sprinkle about smaller projects that are simply fun and bring you joy. Because it’s your life, and you only get this one shot. So damnit, live it on your terms.

Be brave. Keep pushing into discomfort. It’s where the really good stuff happens. I know it’s hard. It’s worth it. Keep going.

Pay it forward. Support those who are being brave enough to stand in their truth or do the thing that’s harder but likely to yield far greater rewards. It’s not easy to pursue your dreams, but it’s a lot easier and far more enjoyable when you do it alongside others. We’re all in this together.

Be curious. Ask questions. There’s so much to learn and so many ways to live. Let go of the things you think you know, and instead start to explore what would happen if you did something differently.

Do. Dreams are really awesome. Action is even more awesome. The doing is where the learning happens.

We’re all about action here. Moving the needle. Avoiding overwhelm. Chasing dreams. Making them real. The world is a tumultuous place right now, but imagine how much better it could be if we all took on a piece of the responsibility of leading. What could we do?

In leadership I trust.

Ami Watkin