Challenging What Leadership Looks Like


What does it mean to be a leader? What can we do to become effective leaders at work and in our communities? These are some of the questions that Umair Haque explores in “Are You a Leader, or Just Pretending to Be One?”

According to Umair, a leader’s “fundamental role isn’t merely to perform the same tasks as is to redefine the idea of performance entirely.” Leadership isn’t about recognition or getting a promotion at work; it’s about challenging existing ideas on how to perform the best version of yourself and uplifting others.

The author also points out that a leader inspires the people they work with by providing the opportunity to be creative. I’ve always found that the most impactful leaders not only inspire me to do my work better, but have given me the opportunity to take risks and become a leader.

I also liked that Umair called us out. We complain about our current leaders all the time, but we rarely learn from their mistakes and invest in the development of the leaders we need in our communities; leaders who not only look like us, but help “redefine” what success could be in our communities. Let’s not wait to be “rescue[d] at the cost of our own redemption” as Umair states. We need to cultivate the leadership we have by challenging what that leadership looks like and allowing opportunities for others to step up.

One of the things that attracted me to LURN was our willingness to try to challenge the norm. We’re attempting to challenge the way nonprofits raise money (through a couple of our initiatives that earn income) and we’re trying to demonstrate that work is more effective when we collaborate with other organizations, as opposed to going out on our own. But I think we can do more.

How can we encourage our existing leaders to create opportunities for others?

How can communities invest in the development of future leaders?

How can we lead by example and display a new type of leadership in our everyday work?

How can we keep each other accountable as we become leaders in our communities?

How do we measure our impact as leaders?

I guess I have more questions than answers, but we have to start somewhere, right? I know that being a leader is not an easy job. But, it’s only in the moments where I take risks (and my heart starts to beat fast) that I’ve come to learn something about myself and my potential as a leader. What do you think?