J. W. Waterhouse; Miranda (The tempest) 1916
As an academic, assistant editor, public relations representative, I lead classes, seminars, workshops. Leading and leadership aren’t synonymous to me. Leading was an aspect of my professions. Part of the job description. Leadership was something else; it was thrust on me, in the face of tragedies, and required that I sacrifice some of myself in order to fulfill the commitment I made.
The 16 year old daughter of one of my graduate school professors, I., killed herself. I. asked me to take over his introductory lecture class and handling the teaching assistant assignments. He chose me, over other of his students, because he knew I’d do the job. With empathy and understanding. And with my heart and soul. And I did. We all survived, with personal costs. But mine seemed slight compared to the loss of a daughter by her own hand.
When my graduate school supervisor, G., died, I was unofficially his stand in. Although 2 senior professor were assigned to handle his papers, academic commitments, his students, etc., I was the one the students came to. All assumed G. & I had a kind of close personal relationship we didn’t. G. could be gruff, intimidating, demanding, and not one to say he was sorry or to give out compliments. I saw a much mellower side of him when we met to discuss things. We held mutual respect for each other. His graduate students saw him as mentor, father, confessor, tyrant. I just saw him as G. What I lost in helping others traumatized and adrift after his death, again a small price to pay for what he had done for and meant to them.
In the shadowy existence that is now, I’m not called upon to lead or have a leadership role. I get extremely anxious thinking of either as part of the current me. My leadership capabilities seem part of a parallel universe. A place I once dwelt, but moved with no forwarding address.