Jun
22

Pass It On: The Imperative to Lead

by  Becky Robinson  |  Self Leadership

We get off the plane in Chicago, my daughters and I, enroute to South Carolina. With a 3 hour layover ahead of us, we take our time. We check the monitors for our connecting gate: A 11. I look up: we stand at gate B-15.

It’s a long walk through Midway airport, past all the B gates, past the shops, through the center food courts, past more shops, into the A gates, all the way to gate 11. We have plenty of time, so we stop to browse a few shops. We stand still on the moving sidewalks while people rush past. About halfway to the gate, the kids start to whine and I remind them that we aren’t going to complain; we’re almost there.

But when we get to the gate, the sign indicates a different flight number, a destination that is not ours.

We stand in line for a few minutes to find out where we need to go. The girls are fidgety.

It’s finally my turn. I look at the man behind the desk and smile.

“Hi, Saul,” I say.

I hand over our boarding passes. “Your flight,” he tells me, “is at gate B-19.”

“I checked the monitors,” I tell him.

“Oh, well, we don’t have control over those,” he says. “They’re owned by the city of Chicago. They are often wrong. Sorry.”

“Really?” I say. “We walked all the way over here and now we have to walk all the way back?”

I feel impatient and a bit baffled.

“You know,” Saul says, “Someone should really do something about that. This happens all the time.”

“Is there something YOU can do?” I ask him.

“I will. I’ve been meaning to.” We exchange a few more words and I can see a spark in Saul’s eye. He intends to do something about this.

I reach for the green wristband on my arm. I wear one all the time: it says “I am remarkable!”

I reach across the desk and I hand it to Saul. I tell him “Saul, you are remarkable! You can make a difference.”

He slides the bracelet onto his wrist and I hope it will remind him that he CAN make a difference.

Instead of saying “Sorry, I can’t do anything about this,” he can ask questions, look for solutions. He can be the one to instigate change, to suggest new procedures or policies.

I take a deep breath. I reach into my bag and pull out a new wristband, slide it onto my left arm.

I turn to the girls. “Let’s go, girls. Our flight is back at B-19.” They’re not happy about retracing our steps but we make it to our gate in plenty of time.

As we walk, I think about the first words Saul said to me “We don’t control that.”

So often, we accept things as they are, even when the way things are is not ideal.

What if, instead, we looked for ways to make a difference?

What if we made a commitment to be the ones to instigate change? The ones to look for solutions where none have been found before?

What if we could inspire others to lead where they are, our questions or example nudging others to action (the way I nudged Saul)?

What if we could pass on the imperative to lead,seamlessly, as I passed my green wristband?

What would it take? Where do we start?

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By becky-robinson
I am the owner of Weaving Influence and the leader of the Weaving Influence team. We help authors and thought leaders grow their online influence. I am also a wife and mom of three daughters, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, a good cup of coffee, and dark chocolate.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Ed Han  |  22 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Becky, what an excellent source of inspiration. It’s easy not to see opportunities in issues and what a great teaching moment for your daughters, too!

Incidentally: where might one find such wristbands?

Becky Robinson  |  22 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Hi Ed,

Thanks for your encouragement and your interest in the wristbands. You can find out more about the Remarkable Wristbands at youareremarkable.com

I hope my daughters picked up on the lesson. They see me wearing my wristband daily and they see me giving them away. It’s hard to know what they pick up from my interactions with other adults. I would certainly love to inspire them to make a difference, every day, where they are. You can do that at any age!

Will Lukang  |  22 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Excellent post! You gave Saul a nudge and let him know that there is hope. Sometimes people need to be reassured and not to give up. Thanks for sharing.

Becky Robinson  |  22 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Thanks, Will. I hope that Saul followed through to see what he could do to make a difference.

Jon M  |  22 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Spreading a spark of the possibility of not accepting indifference is an excellent approach. You may never know what change that gesture ignites, but it is much better to challenge someone to think and act differently. Great post!

Becky Robinson  |  22 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Jon,

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I hope it inspires people to action!

Becky

Chery Gegelman  |  22 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Thank you Becky! You consistently take an every-day experience and turn it into a leadership lesson that others can relate to with ease.

This story in particular provided both vision and encouragement to Saul, to use his experience, his knowledge and his voice to create a change ripple that will make a difference for thousands of people. For the rest of us it is a reminder that every person at every level has something of great value to contribute and we should all be looking for way to unleash that potential in each other.

Mark Sturgell CBC  |  22 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Becky,

Wonderful message that is so simple yet so easily passed up in our daily lives.

First, I loved the distinction that Saul makes in his response, “We don’t CONTROL that.” There are many things that are, truthfully, beyond our control. Yet our potential for INFLUENCE remains.

Second, it is all too easy to submit ourselves to the role of victim by announcing that the proverbial “somebody should” do something about it, whatever the circumstantial “it” is in life at the moment. We need others like you to ask of us, “Is there something YOU can do?” (the ultimate role of a coach is to ask this question.)

Here is my simple credo:

Maybe I can’t change what HAS happened, but by golly I sure am responsible for what happens next!

John S  |  22 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Becky,

Some great thoughts.

A two questions come to mind….

1.) Why didn’t Saul get you and the girls transportation back to your correct gate?

2.) If one of our associates responded, “We don’t have control over that” to a customer, they would be looking for another job. Like Saul, we have to contend with unions and govermental agencies everyday on the trade show floor. I hope our response is not the same.

I think you were trying to highlight how Saul was being a good representative of the Southwest brand.

My thoughts are the opposite.

John

Susan Mazza  |  22 Jun 2011  |  Reply

What a great example of committing an act of leadership on your part Becky and an opportunity for committing an act of leadership for Saul. Wondering what he will choose to do…good for you for not letting the opportunity pass by.

Sharon Reed  |  22 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Great post, Becky! Sometimes we all need a nudge, encouragement, or a simple green band to remind us that we are indeed remarkable; that we all have the power and opportunity to lead and influence change if we are willing to step outside of our comfort zone. I am certain that regardless of whatever action Saul may or may not have taken that day, you planted an important seed that is likely to remain with him for some time to come – possibly just what Saul needed to grow the leader within.

Erin Schreyer  |  23 Jun 2011  |  Reply

I love, love, love this post Becky!!! “Instigate.” My very favorite word, as it relates to our encouragement of taking responsiblity for leadership! We CAN influence others in positive ways. It CAN ripple out. It CAN make a difference. Why not try and see what happens? I’ll bet we WILL see a better world…

Steve Browne  |  23 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Becky – what a great example of how a simple conversation can allow people to be intentional. Thanks for modeling what you believe in to not only the attendant, but your daughters. That’s powerful stuff !! Thanks for sharing how what we “do” can happen in all environments. Great post.

Christo Strom  |  23 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Becky,
Simple every day interactions with people in a spirit of harmony does wonders
everywhere. Do they make those wristbands in ORANGE?

Respectfully in TRUTH

Christo Strom
Sole Owner of Orange Race Card Angels
Head of Angel Promotions

P.S. You are remarkable +(~~+~~)+

Becky Robinson  |  23 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Hi Christo,

Thanks! You are REMARKABLE, also. We don’t make the wristbands in orange. We make them in GREEN to remind us of the growth! I can see why you would want orange, though. :) I’ll have to pitch the idea to my boss.

Paul Nicholas  |  01 Jul 2011  |  Reply

I enjoyed this – thanks Becky.

I suppose the green wristband is a tangible or embodied metaphor for some intangible and subliminal behavioural signal that you must be imparting at the same time – what non-verbal messages do you think you are giving at these moments?

And I liked Steve Brown’s comment that “a simple conversation can allow people to be intentional”. I’m often telling people that “a single conversation can be transformational” – and I shall now add “and it’s the simplest conversations that are the most powerful”.

Best wishes

Paul

Marvin LeBlanc  |  12 Jul 2011  |  Reply

WOW! Great story and very inspiring. People in Saul’s position must often feel very helpless and a simple conversation and an gentle but powerful reminder (the wristband) will make a big difference in his life. I tell my clients all the time that everyday conversations are far more meaningful and powerful than “sales appointments”. Thank for the inspiring article.

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