"Why are these people following me?": Leadership for the introverted, uncertain, and astonished

Accepted Session
Scheduled: Thursday, June 26, 2014 from 9:00 – 9:45am in Sanctuary


So you've had an idea, or noticed a gap that needs filling, or wondered why no one's talking about an issue you care about. Like the motivated and competent person you are, you start working, or writing, or talking. People start noticing you, listening to you, even asking for your opinion about their own projects--and one day, you realize they're treating you just like you treat your own role models. You find this unsettling. Surely motivation and competence aren't that special, you think. You, a leader? Can't be. And if you actually are a leader, what do you do now?


Many of us—particularly those who’ve never thought of ourselves as outgoing, charismatic, or particularly talented—don’t think of ourselves as leaders. We save that for someone who’s a “natural leader” or a “people person,” or for our own role models (who may very well feel the same way that we do!). What if we instead thought about leadership as a set of transferable skills that we could practice in our daily lives?

This talk is for anyone who’s not sure how “leader” or “role model” could possibly apply to them! I’ll draw on current social psychology research on leadership, authenticity, and assertiveness and argue that leading is about what you do, not what you are. I’ll address impostor syndrome and other barriers to sharing our authentic selves, and will finally suggest ways to look beyond our implicit biases to recognize and foster leadership skills in those around us.


leadership, impostor syndrome, assertiveness, self-care, community building, mentorship, transferable skills

Speaking experience

At Foolscap 2014 I spoke on a panel about more inclusive approaches to the hacker/maker movement and facilitated a discussion on creating welcoming communities. Previously, I taught organic chemistry and introductory materials science for two years and presented my research results to my lab group each quarter.


  • Hocutt  frances march 2015


    Frances Hocutt has taken part in the science-to-tech branch of the great STEM reshuffling. In the process, she’s written, spoken, mentored, and co-founded Seattle’s first feminist hackerspace/makerspace. She prefers elegance in her science and effectiveness in her art and is happiest when drawing on as many disciplines as she can. Hocutt jumped into F/OSS development with work on the Dreamwidth journaling platform and the MediaWiki web API and expanded into work on MediaWiki and associated Wikimedia-ecosystem contributor tools. Her current interest is applying tools from one discipline to another area entirely, with an eye to offering others the space, tools, and community that they need to change and live in this world.

    Photo used under CC-BY-SA-3.0. “Hocutt, Frances March 2015”, by Myleen Hollero.