What Really Makes You a Leader?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post referencing a recent family summer vacation to Hilton Head.  I experienced such joy watching my children during that week that I felt moved to write about it.  I found ways to relate my kids’ activities to “leadership lessons” that I thought were great reminders for us all.

Of course, when I wrote the story, I knew it wouldn’t be my deepest, most data-driven blog post.  It wasn’t meant to be.  It was intended to be a light-hearted and sincere anecdote that many people could potentially relate to.  I hoped that possibly, readers might appreciate the leadership analogy coming from such a different, yet common, perspective.

It wasn’t my favorite blog post of all time, actually.  I was blown away, in fact, by the amount of positive attention and warm, appreciative comments from so many readers.  That is…all but one, anyway…

Several days after the story posted, my article was re-tweeted on Twitter and caught the attention of a best-selling author and former Green Beret, who is also a self-described leadership practitioner and team-builder.  He re-tweeted the original message, along with his added message,

“More leadership gurus who’ve never led”

It struck me as a bit odd at first, but I completely let it roll off my back.  The story was about my children, after all, and I could see where someone might take a more cynical view than I do and argue that I shouldn’t be looking to them for any leadership lessons.  Okay, I can accept that…sort of…

What really made me scratch my head, though, was the fact that this Green Beret then went to my blog and left a public comment for me (and everyone else) to see.  There, he asked,

Who have you led and under what circumstances?”

I politely responded to him that I have led many people in different ways, most certainly, than a Green Beret.  That said, I do believe that we have both demonstrated good leadership – just very differently.

So why bring all this up?

Honesty, I waited quite a while to share this story.  I didn’t want to write this to defend myself with a list of certifications, accolades or references.  I didn’t want to respond emotionally, getting everyone else all riled up and ready to come to my rescue.  I waited, and I prayed, to be sure I could feel comfortable with my reason for sharing this with a broader audience.

And my reason is this…

I’m passionate about spreading the message of character-based leadership and the difference it can make in people’s lives as well as business.

I believe that leaders are everywhere, not just at the top of an organization.  I don’t think you are required to have a big title or three decades worth of experience.  You don’t need to have turned an organization around, managed hundreds of people, or even saved a life.  You don’t have to be an author, speaker or Ph.D, either.  (Please know that I mean no disrespect to anyone who has accomplished these things, though!  These are incredible achievements!)

I believe everyone can be a leader from who they are and where they are.  I believe that we can influence people around us in positive ways, and that can have an overwhelming impact on business results.

I believe that we can all take responsibility to bring out our best in every situation.  We can identify our strengths and the strengths of our teammates, and we can work to build incredible teams that allow us each to leverage what we do best.

I believe we can all impact others around us by smiling more, caring more, understanding more and listening more.  I believe that we should place the highest value on each other as unique individuals and that each person has a purpose that only they can fulfill.  I believe that there is nothing more important than loving and appreciating others for who they are, and I think it’s okay to say that….even in a work setting.

I’ve seen my children behave as leaders, when they choose to go against the crowd and do what they know is right.  And you know what?  I tell them they are leaders for making that choice, and I encourage them to continue that behavior.

Always do what’s right.  It does make you a leader.  At least, that’s what I believe.

What do you think?  Does it make us a leader to take a stand for what we believe is right?  Are we leaders when we decide to have a positive impact on others around us?  Is it leading when we bring our absolute best with an intention to build into others?

I’m not suggesting that everyone is qualified to run an organization, of course….but truly… can’t we all lead from where we are?  Or does it really require a title or position where people report to us?  To me, those things only give you authority.  I think that’s very different than leadership.  Do you?

Consider it.  Please.  And do leave a comment here.

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