Leadership comes in many forms. From being a role model to those younger in their journeys to being a work supervisor.
In lived experience, leadership often goes hand in hand with advocacy- whether intended or not. Lived Experience Leaders constantly speak about past efforts, current challenges, and future directions. We share our souls and hope those around us understand that we do so with the hope that we can shape change.
Lived experience work is vulnerability on display. It is seeing and speaking barriers aloud, whereas many other professionals may be more inclined toward silence. Lived experience work is walking into a room with an invisible nametag that leaves us open to criticism, disbelief, undermining, isolation, and even discrimination. We are the “consumers” who used services but are often left in the space of consumption. Ever eating the assumption that we could fall back into being unwell.
Lived Experience Leadership takes on new meaning because it exacts expectations on us that other professionals may never have had to own or disown publicly. We walk in our pain as professionals, but we can also persevere through our passion. To lead from lived experience means to own our weakest moments in every space and know those moments were nothing more. They were fractions of a fraction of our experiences, our skills, our talents, and our power.
So, when we lead from our lived experience, we model the humanity of being complex. We model that it is okay to struggle AND it is okay to succeed. We must remember that while others are looking at us, we also tell ourselves who we are and what we can offer this work.
You can lead as you are.
You deserve leadership opportunities.
But don’t lead yourself astray along the way.