When I was young, I was told by teachers that I was bossy. I was bossy, for sure, but that's not the point. I was in a constant fight with this boy in my class because I wanted things to be done my way. He wasn't doing it right, and I wanted to show him. Instead of redirecting passion for perfection into something positive, my teacher lectured me about the importance of "letting things go" and turned a blind eye to my classmates bullying me for being a tattle-tale. Before that year I was the first to raise my hand at assemblies, first to speak up when I saw something going wrong. I was loud and I made sure everyone knew it. From that class on I became more reserved, more careful with how I spoke up about things and how I presented myself. I didn't want to be the outspoken bossy girl anymore, because I had been punished for doing so.
I'm resisting going off on a tangent here about how in our society males are rewarded when they are assertive, and women are usually penalized for being "bossy". I could write for days about that, and I'm sure other women out there could do the same. However, the point of this isn't to change society or dissolve the patriarchy. (If anyone wants to help me with that I'm free on Thursday). It's about finding your voice even when others push you down. It's about having that special spark, the one that really makes a leader a leader. It's about being able to lead when you have an idea. It has nothing to do with how outspoken you are.
Yes, even when you're quiet you have a voice. You can have a passion, a need to help others and a leadership personality even if you don't shout it from the rooftops. You don't have to spend your time surrounded by people and being the bubbliest person in the room to be a leader. What is important is that passion. When that passion is groomed the right way, developed into something more than just being a bossy kid, that's when a leader is developed.
If you're quiet, you can have others hear your voice in other ways. Being the loudest voice in the room doesn't mean your the smartest. Channeling your ideas and making others hear you and agree or support you requires something else. A great idea can come from anywhere, any person. The ability to make that thing actually happen requires thoughtfulness, planning, and most of all, direction. An idea is just an idea until it is put to use, and you can have the power to step up and make that happen.
We have all experienced the class clown in our years of school, both in college and all the way back to pre-K. The one who says anything to make the room laugh, who loves to be the center of attention. Would you follow that person? If they tried to tell you how to do a project would you believe them, and do it their way? Unless that class clown has earned your respect in some way, probably not. If someone is going to listen to another person's advice or direction, there needs to be a respect and a sense of recognition that this person knows what they're talking about. Just because the class clown is the loudest person in the room doesn't make them the smartest.
Just because I don't speak up like I used to doesn't mean that I can't be a leader. The passion to do what's right is still there. Being outgoing and outspoken is an asset, sure. However, it's not a necessity to be a leader. The potential to be a leader is in every single person, whether they believe it or not. The only difference is if that potential is used or not. Be a leader in your own way. Show, don't tell.