Ask a child or teenager for leadership examples and you will probably get answers like I did in my experiment with my teenage daughter; Martin Luther King, Jr., Adolf Hitler (!), and George Washington.
Isn’t that how we typically think of leaders, as these charismatic, larger-than-life people who change the world? My daughter’s first definition of a leader reflected this; “someone who takes a stand for others who cannot.” While this a nice thought, further probing brought the conversation around to the recognition that, in fact, everyone is a leader.
A leader is someone who shows the way, who influences, who conducts, who guides, etc. Politicians are leaders. Human rights activists are leaders. Entertainers and sports stars are leaders. Managers are leaders. Project managers are leaders. These are obvious.
But probe a bit, and you realize that every human being on earth except for the loner on a desert isle is a leader to someone. Older brothers and sisters are leaders to their siblings. New hires with no experience are leading at work through their new perspective and prowess on new technologies and techniques. Students are leading when someone in the classroom or hallway takes a cue through example or outright suggestion. Kids are leading other kids while at day care, church, or at the corner pizza place.
So whether we like it or not, all of us are already leaders. It takes zero effort to achieve this state, because we are already there. This is a point worthy of introspection, because many persons, including myself when I first began my career, think of leaders as “those people” and if we wanted to achieve leadership, it was something that perhaps required a certain genetic code and personality, but certainly required a lot of hard work and luck.
Whether or not you are charismatic, innovative, articulate, or full of sage wisdom, you are already a leader in some respect. The question, then, becomes not who is a leader or how to become a leader, but instead shifts toward how to become more impactful as the leader that you already are.
So, acknowledging that you are already a leader, what are you going to do to become a better one? That is where we all need to pour considerable energy. Let’s explore this together in the coming weeks through comments and additional blog posts. Please let me know what you think.