Always be able to answer, "Wherever we want."
A leader's responsibility is to do what is necessary to make any goal (no matter how big, hairy, or audacious) feel doable. Don't think this doesn't apply to you. If you can influence others (um, everyone!), YOU ARE A LEADER.
Leadership = Influence
We've all heard it, and it's true, you don't need a title to be a leader/influencer, just like having a title doesn't make you a leader/influencer.
As you think about the day, week, and career ahead of you, what type of influence will you and your actions have on others? Notice I didn't ask, "Will you influence others?" That's a given. What I'm asking is whether your influence will impact others in a positive manner or not.
Let's look at the options you have in your daily interactions with others. Every one of those interactions presents an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and be a positive influence. The difference in the effort required on your part is negligible, but the impact of your choice is profound.
Build them up
Will you take the time to sincerely compliment someone on a job well done? Or will you allow them to think their efforts don't matter?
Nothing drives exceptional performance like confidence. Nothing builds confidence more than the recognition of a job well done by someone you respect.
Show you care
Will you look someone in the eye so they know you are listening and interested in what they say? Or will you allow your thoughts and attention to drift elsewhere?
We all want to know that what we have to say is relevant and important, that we're worth a bit of focused attention.
Fail forward together
Will you share, even celebrate, your mistakes openly and encourage others to fail in pursuit of improvement? Or will you work to cover up your flaws in an attempt to project a "perfect image?" Worse yet, will you not even put yourself in a position to fail?
If you want your team to reach its potential, encourage them to take chances. Safe gets you second place, at best. Leave the participation ribbons for your timid competitors.
Will you admit to your fears and give others a permission slip to be afraid? Or will your demeanor be the cause of fear and anxiety in others.
Bravery isn't the absence of fear; it's the willingness to face your fears. Be brave together.
Discipline is sexy. Frenetic, not so much
Will you allow others to see you take a disciplined approach to your priorities? Or will you wear the "I'm so ridiculously busy" badge?
Nothing will diminish your leadership/influence faster than projecting an image of being out of control.
When it matters most
Maybe most importantly, what will you do when nobody is watching or listening that will still positively influence others?
This is perhaps the truest definition of all about what it means to be a leader and worthy of influence.
The path you forge
Leaders ask themselves all the time, "Am I leading by example?" Wrong question, my friend.
You are always leading by example; it's only a matter of where your example is leading.
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Photo by encierro.