On Saturday I facilitated a workshop on Leadership and Personality for a diverse group of emerging leaders. The essence of it was my deep belief that by letting our unique personalities shine, we will be stronger and more effective leaders. I spent too many years of my leadership career trying to fit into a box that wasn’t my size, so now I’m trying to help other people bust out of those boxes into new ways of being.

I started the session with a series of questions.

  • What are the stories you’ve been lead to believe about your personality? What did/do your parents/siblings/teachers/friends tell you – verbally or non-verbally – about who you are and who you are supposed to be?
  • Setting aside the stories others have told you, what do YOU believe to be true about your personality and your place in the world?
  • Which story are you allowing to shape who you are today? And what do you do with the disconnect?

After that introduction, all of the participants in the workshop spent some time exploring their personalities through a True Colors analysis. In True Colors, aspects of your personality are revealed through a rainbow of colours, some of which are stronger than others. (Side note: I am not a strong believer that personality type tests tell the WHOLE story or that we should read them as gospel truth, but I do believe they help us understand ourselves better, especially if we’re early on the journey to self-discovery.)

An aboriginal woman in the group identified herself as most strongly Orange, the colour that represents spontaneity, action, and a love of adventure.

“I see it as the fire in me,” she said. “An orange fire. A fire that others tried to put out. When I was growing up in residential schools, they were always trying to stamp out my energy, my creativity, and my spontaneity. They wanted me to conform to their model of what a ‘good girl’ was. But they couldn’t put the fire out. It will always burn in me and now that I’m grown, I’m learning to trust it and let it shine brighter and brighter.”

Her words were so powerful. I know I will remember them for a long, long time. 

Most of us haven’t gone through the hell of residential schools, nor do we know the deep injuries that have been done to our Aboriginal people in the name of “making them more like us”.  But almost all of us have stories of how people – most of them well-meaning but wrong-headed – tried to stamp out our fire.

What is it in you that is trying to emerge despite the stories you’ve been lead to believe about yourself?

Maybe it’s burning brightly, or maybe it’s just a tiny spark that needs some air to help it burst into a roaring flame. 

I welcome you to answer the questions above to help you rekindle your flame.

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