When speaking to Dr. Debra West, Chancellor of Arkansas State University Mid-South, on my “Empowering Women in Educational Leadership” August 30th episode, she said the best piece of advice she ever received as she was shifting into more leadership roles was “You have your own shoes.”

In a world that constantly attempts to define, stereotype, and categorize individuals, there’s a need for leaders who proudly and unabashedly wear their own shoes. As women in leadership roles, this analogy speaks to owning our unique leadership style. It’s about understanding that every stride we take shapes the path for those following behind. Here’s why embracing your distinct leadership style is not just a personal feat, but a transformative one for those you lead.

1. Every Footprint is Unique

Each one of us has walked a distinct path, with experiences, lessons, and stories that are solely ours. No two journeys are the same. As a leader, you bring a unique blend of skills, wisdom, and intuition to your role. By accepting and showcasing your authentic self, you set a precedent that it’s okay for others to do the same.

2. High Heels or Flats? It’s Your Choice

Society often prescribes what a leader should look like, how they should behave, and what shoes they should wear. Some might advocate for the towering high heels, while others vouch for sensible flats. The truth? It’s your choice. Your leadership is defined by your actions, beliefs, and values – not by external standards or expectations.

3. Transformation Through Authenticity

The most influential leaders are those who lead with authenticity. They don’t change who they are based on popular opinion. Instead, they remain grounded in their truths. When you are genuine, it resonates with those around you. People are more inclined to trust, respect, and follow someone who is real rather than a projection of someone else’s ideal.

4. Empowering Others to Find Their Footwear

A confident woman leader doesn’t just wear her shoes with pride, but she encourages others to find their perfect fit too. By creating an environment where individuality is celebrated, you foster growth, innovation, and self-confidence in your team. You teach them that there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to leadership or life.

5. Walking Together, Yet Apart

While it’s essential for a team to have a unified direction, it’s equally important for each member to walk their path. As a leader, you can set the course, but remember that each individual brings a unique gait, rhythm, and pair of shoes. Celebrating these differences is what makes a team dynamic, resilient, and innovative.

In conclusion, as a woman in a leadership position, remember that your shoes — whether they are stilettoes, boots, or sandals — are a reflection of your journey, your choices, and your individuality. Wear them with pride, walk with purpose, and inspire those around you to find and own their pair. After all, leadership is not about fitting into someone else’s shoes, but about owning, loving, and walking confidently in your own.