Which way did they go? How many were there? I HAVE to know, I am their leader!
Have you ever encountered a manager in your life who just didn’t get it? Someone who you felt had no concept of what it meant to manage others? I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had to deal with someone like that—and probably more than one. How do we define good leadership? We know it when we see it, but what is it?
Picture a leader you’ve encountered that you think was an excellent example of good leadership. When you have them in your mind, ask yourself, what was it about them that inspired you. Why were they a good leader?
Now for the most important question: How many of you consider yourself to be a leader?
“Am I a leader?”
It’s an interesting question because it goes to the root of self-esteem, self-perception; how we perceive ourselves within the community of our co-workers, and in our personal associations with friends and family. We look at leaders we admire and ask ourselves if we are good leadership material based on how we view the leadership skills we see in others we look up to.
I once read about a leadership developer who asked a gathering of kindergarten children how many of them considered themselves to be a leader. Can you guess how many raised their hand? Without exception, every child in the group raised their hand.
Later he asked a gathering of middle school kids the same question. This time about half the group raised their hand. Finally, he asked a group of adult teachers the same question. Almost no one raised their hand.
There are a number of probable reasons. I believe it comes down to a combination of personal psychological factors, group behavioral dynamics, and reality. The brain is a comparative tool, judging and comparing one experience against another similar experience, one person against another. We also, place ourselves in those comparisons.
We tell ourselves, “I didn’t do well in that behavior, therefore it’s probably not my strong suit.” Then, as we go through life, we continue to walk down that negative stairway of anti-self-talk, building on that false belief of personal inadequacy with statements that start with “I didn’t do well at that” to “I’m not good at that” to “I suck at that” to finally, “I CAN’T do that!”
On top of that, we grow up hearing, “you’re just a product of your environment”, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”, “You can’t shed the skin you’re in”, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, “You can’t fly with the eagles if you’re a duck!”
Most of that is pure crap!
I say most because it is true we have some limitations based on lack of experiences or lack of opportunities. And let’s face it, we’re not all physically equipped to run a 4-minute mile. But those missed chances, the lack of experiences or opportunities don’t confine us to a ho-hum, so-so life. They can be overcome. No one is stuck with a life they don’t want to live. There are no involuntary life sentences in the prison of mediocrity!
Everyone has greatness. Everyone is a leader and everyone can be a great leader. It’s true that some are hesitant to take up the mantle of leadership. Because we know that stepping into leadership means stepping into risk. Great leadership takes extra work. But it’s not about education, or talent. It’s about choosing to lead. Wanting it.
Effective leadership is not taught, it’s learned! Although it can help, you don’t sit in a classroom or read a book to become a great leader. You become a great leader by leading. By winning or losing, making right or wrong choices but learning from both.
Each and every one of us are leaders…and I can prove it. Think back over this last year. Think about what your greatest win or success was in 2017. It might have been something at work, a project or personal goal you achieved or an award you received. It could be something from your personal life that was the realization of a dream or desire. Take a minute to decide on your greatest win.
Now think about how that win or success impacted you, your family, or your team at work. Not just how it impacted and shaped you and your behavior afterward, but how impacted and shaped others in your life?
Once you realize that your actions, your behaviors and your achievements have a ripple effect on others, is when you realize you are a leader. In that realization is where true leadership begins. Realizing that we’re not on an island, that others will, and do, observe us, look up to us and learn. That self-awareness is so exciting. You get to positively impact someone else in their life through the leadership of your actions. Your life goes beyond you. That’s exciting. That’s scary! That’s the beauty of a life worth sharing.
There are no involuntary life sentences in mediocrity. Who’s watching you? Who’s learning and shaping their life choices on what they see in you? Yes, that’s a little scary. But rejoice in the positive power of your actions to reach out and touch a life. Every day!