Leading with a soft heart.

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alex scoville head shot
I look like this. I didn’t consider myself a leader for most of my life.

My name is Alex Scoville and I am a young digital journalist with a passion for telling local news in innovative ways. I believe multimedia storytelling can better and challenge the communities they cover by enhancing even the smallest stories with compelling visuals and interactive content. I am currently the arts and entertainment co-editor with the hyper local, student-run publication the Downtown Devil.

I’ve always been a sensitive person. I cry a lot for a lot of reasons: sad movies, sprawling landscapes, the kindness of friends, piles of homework. I’m prone to bouts of hand-wringing anxiety over the smallest details. Even though I’m always worried that I talk too much, I’m really most comfortable listening to another person speak.

For all these reasons and more, I thought my sensitivity and vulnerability would forever close me off to leadership. To me from the past, leaders were stony individuals with no time for tears. I was meant to be a follower.

I no longer think that. I’m even a little ashamed that it took so long for me to see that I basically imagined leaders as salty sea captains.

I used to think leaders all pretty much looked like this.
I used to think leaders all pretty much looked like this.

A leader definitely has to be strong, but now I know strength doesn’t come from a hard heart. It comes from vulnerability.

Being vulnerable allows a person to be empathetic, sensitive, a listener, willing to adapt. I think it even encourages creativity in leaders. These sensitive commanders can build relationships with their followers and understand what they want. They’re able to change as needed to execute forward-thinking goals. Great leaders probably spent time as great followers—not because they’re just waiting to conquer the throne, but because they enjoyed excelled in that role.

There are obviously down sides (not every leader is perfect). Tearing up on a daily basis and second-guessing every decision are the flip side of the vulnerability coin. Self doubt is healthy in small doses, because it encourages self reflection, but a good leader should still be confident because of, not in spite of, their sensitivity.

So grab that handkerchief and open hearts and ears—your peers could need a softie like you.

2 Comments on “Leading with a soft heart.”

  1. Hi Alex,
    The man in your photo walked through terrible calamities and difficulties but he always stayed devoted to his career. John Paul Jones (not the Zeppelin musician:)))) – he was a soldier whose wish was to become “Father of the United States Navy” and he made it. One interesting fact, when he died, his friends and servants took his coffin and walked about 4 miles for burial – as a great honor. Also, being a great mariner, he even traveled after his death. His remains were taken from Paris, France to Annapolis, USA by ship. US President Theodore Roosevelt gave a lengthy speech to the brave soldier who came home finally.

  2. Hey Alex!
    I think you make a great point about what makes a person strong. Strength doesn’t come from being hard and set in your ways, it’s easy to see your way and no other. Real strength is seeing that your way is not always the best, that other people have thoughts and ideas and they are worth listening to. Being able to adapt and accept that the right way is not necessarily your way, now that takes a lot of strength. But you must also have the strength to accept and be comfortable with yourself because if you do not believe you can be a leader why would others. It seems like this was your struggle but that you also now see that what makes you you is also what makes you a good leader and that is truly awesome!

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