If asked about the many roles you play, would you call yourself a leader? My experience is that far more of us are leading, or at least being called to lead than would admit at first glance.
Think about it for just a moment. Every single one of us leads and influences; the question is not if, but how. Consider the following:
David sparked a fruitful conversation around waste when he gently asked the cafeteria manager at his workplace whether food might be served without unnecessary containers or wrapping, unless requested.
Amy developed an improved manner of setting meeting agendas so people spent less time in meetings and accomplished more results-oriented work.
Nobody is likely to write a book about David or Amy. But these everyday leaders are creating just as much impact in their workplace, family and community as the captains of industry and politics described in the pages of New York Times bestsellers.
Indeed, the challenges and opportunities of today’s organizations and today’s world—require that we all step forward and lead every day. We need to become our own captains, delivering more of our own personal best to give to the world. In a highly complex, information-laden world, how do we do this effectively?
Leadership as a Way of Life
Too often, we believe that leadership is the domain of those with recognized authority, and the title to go with it: CEOs, association presidents, conductors, mayors.
“In a world that is changing as rapidly as this one, we need to think differently about leadership,” says Susan Collins, author of Our Children Are Watching: Ten Skills for Leading the Next Generation to Success. “Leading is not done by those few in high places, but by parents and teachers and managers and those governing—all working together to create the world that we want.”
When we dare to stand up for our beliefs or to follow through on our big dreams and ideas, when we act as though what we say and do in the world matters—matters greatly—we are leading.
In other words, leadership is a way of life, an expression of our fullest and best nature, our unique gifts. And it starts on the inside.
“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” writes John C. Maxwell, in his book The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. “If you can become the leader you ought to be on the inside, you will be able to become the leader you want to be on the outside.”
Qualities of Leadership
Because leadership is inextricably connected to who we are deep down, every leader has a different style. Some lead with their eccentric, charismatic selves on full, charming display. Other leaders bear no banners and sound no trumpets. But the inner qualities that make for effective leadership remain constant among all types of leaders
Positive attitude. Leaders know they can alter their lives by altering their minds. Self-discipline, a sense of security and confidence blossom in the presence of a positive attitude. We get more of what we focus on, so choose positive!
Commitment to a big “why.” Leaders are motivated by a “why” and portray “for the sake of what” they do what they do. They encourage this expression in others, because from this extraordinary results are possible. What is your big “why?”
Unwavering commitment. No great leader has ever lacked commitment. True commitment stems from the big “why” mentioned above; people will be committed to what they care about. They will take action to what they are committed to. Commitment requires and inspires courage, passion, focus, initiative and responsibility. To what are you and your teams committed?
Communication. Sharing knowledge is essential; even more important is listening. As President Woodrow Wilson said, “The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.” How effectively are you listening?
Interest in others. The best leaders thrive on helping others achieve their personal best; they are motivated by a desire for the highest good for all rather than personal glory. Who have you mentored, coached or helped today?
Imagine a world full of everyday leaders. That is my dream and my commitment to help develop.
If you feel inspired to step into your full leadership capacities in 2012, I invite you check out my new book: “Step Up Now: 21 Powerful Principles for People Who Influence Others.” While on my website, you will find other free resources to stimulate your discovery, including a free audio download, articles, and a Step Up Leader I.Q. Test to help you discover your Influencer Quotient.