You Gotta Bleed to Lead

I write this blog post in response to Alexis Collado’s blog post found at this link:


Reading about student leadership from a Lourdesian perspective compelled me to look back on how I yearned to grow as a person and as a leader.  Nostalgia is such a bittersweet pill to take during this time when I just finished my college degree… yet it feels that high school is just weeks away.

What Alexis wrote in his blog brought my psyche back to my high school times, but this time I am armed by experience and wisdom.  To give structure to this blog post, I’d like to dwell on Alexis’s “3 Types of Student Leaders”.

Onto the first point!

I’d like to believe that I am an introverted leader.

After reading Susan Cain’s “Quiet”, I came to appreciate the gifts of being an introvert.  Funny thing is, most people would think that “leadership” and “introvert” should never be joined in a sentence.  Who would blame them for thinking that way?

When we speak of leaders, we think of the charismatic communicators, the politicians, the debaters.  “The Extrovert Ideal”, as Susan Cain expounded.

But as we know, dogs who bark the loudest do not automatically mean they bite the strongest.

No disrespect to the natural, charismatic, and inspiring extroverts but the glorification of having to be greatly great at public speaking led to the proliferation of know-it-alls eager to show the world how they’re better than anyone.  How their confidence and way with words can lead to “wingin’ it” and still managing to impress.

As MarkProfers would harshly say to those know-it-alls, especially during group case studies wherein only a select few will be chosen among the team, “Know when to speak up and know when to shut up.

That elated the introvert in me, once I heard my MarkProf seniors say those! I was happy that somehow, amidst the glorification of the “Extrovert Ideal”, there are people who recognize sugarcoated nonsense versus flavorful delivery of authentic content.

As a student leader then, especially back in high school, I admit that I thought I lacked the guts to always speak up and be the ruthless autocrat.  Then I realized, I just preferred to let my actions do the talking.

My most memorable high school leadership moments were revolved on I being the captain ball of our basketball varsity team, once leading the juniors, and the other time leading the seniors.

Leading a basketball team is hard, because pressure is on the leader to deliver.  To make things worse, I am not as athletic as my teammates and was really not the best player on the team.  I felt inadequate for the role, and I attempted to give up the position.  I talked to my coach.  After some days, he talked to me again and said that I am doing just fine, and thus he would not allow me to give up the position.

I was confused then.  What am I supposed to do?  As an introvert, I did not want to be the “bossy” kind of captain or the disciplinarian. Then I realized, all along, the answer was there.  No need for facades or masks.  Just work hard.  Or work harder than anyone.  I knew that I am in no way the best player in my team, but as the captain, I should be the last one to give up or disobey the coach’s instructions.

Lead the conditioning everyday, lead the stretching, surpass my limits, but most importantly, let my teammates, who I knew were better than me, shine.  I need not score, we had plenty of slashers and scorers in the group.  Focus on the little things, dying for the loose ball, not backing down, and most of all, just trying to live and speak through examples.

Onto the next point!

Alexis mentions cocky leadership in his blog post, while I reframe it as “inner hubris”.

There were select unfortunate times, wherein I felt I was better doing things alone than in the group, especially if the group I belonged with were full of the dreaded free-loaders. But hubris is such a powerful negative trait to have, even if I did not dare display such arrogance.  It was a double-edged sword: I had the belief that as long as I poured my effort and focus on something, I did not need to have teammates at all.

But God is such a good God.  He made me realize that in college, everything’s a whole new level.  Standards are much higher, and workloads are much heavier.  In the vernacular, binatukan Niya ako.  I said hellos to accounting and quantitative subjects I almost failed, if not for the mercy of teachers or the miracles of God.

Since then, I knew I gotta recognize my limits.  Since then, the “inner hubris” transformed into a prayer.  Asking God, or if possible forcing God to smack me in the head and pull me back hard to the ground the moment I think that I’m greater than anyone.  Because at the end of the day, the most sincere way to lead is to recognize that one is a flawed being needing the help of others as well – granting them permissions to shine so as to create a culture of interdependence pushing each other up instead of pulling each other down.

And it all boils down to the last point, knowing one’s self; being at peace with one’s self.

There’s no such as thing as the absolutely perfect leader; there’s only the relatively perfect leader.  Contexts change, and times change.  I realized that introverts can lead in their own way, and need not force one’s self to become the overly-glorified “extrovert ideal”.

We are in the eternal journey towards perfection, each representing a particular fragment of image and likeness of God.  We traverse different roads, yet leading to the same destination.

One must bleed to lead, bathe in his own blood and discover one’s own leadership style.  Masks and cookie-cutter prescriptions are supposed to be just guides, not to be dogmas to be forced to anyone’s throat.

Blood, sweat, and tears are the prices one pay to truly experience the essence of servant leadership.  We will all have our own versions, our own stories, our own hero’s journeys.   We will be followers, we will be leaders.

But we gotta bleed often, and instead of cursing God for the pain, thank Him instead.

Bleeding while leading is a sign that we’re following the footsteps of the true leaders who literally died for our sake.

History’s ink in writing our legacies will be the blood we offer in pursuit of true, authentic, servant leadership.

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