Monday, June 25, 2012

What big "L" leaders need is small "l" leadership

Think of your average daily routine. 

Now count how many interactions you have with others - from passing people in the car, to ordering your soy latte, greeting the receptionist at work, picking your children up from school, sweating in Spin class... not to mention all of the meetings via phone calls, emails, Skype, or in the office. It's quickly easy to lose track. 

Just choose a handful of those interactions and imagine all of the opportunities for you to be a leader.

You're probably primarily thinking about interactions where you have an "official" leadership role as boss, manager, co-worker, parent, Sunday School teacher, or club sport coach. But I want you to consider that leadership is primarily influencing others, and this can occur in any sphere of influence.

What interactions do you have with others every day?
How could these be opportunities for leadership?
Drew Dudley in his powerful TED Talk "Everyday Leadership" argues that we "over-elevate leadership" because if we consider leadership to be beyond us, then it gives us an excuse not to expect it. He continues on to tell a story about the biggest impact he has ever had on someone was a moment that he doesn't even remember, even after the person thanked him for it years later.

Great leaders of organizations know that to enact lasting change, they must model the behavior they want their employees to follow. Douglas Smith in Taking Charge of Change says that you must practice leadership based on the courage to live the change that you want to bring about, which sounds extremely similar to Gandhi's saying, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

People imitate the behavior they see, and this is true whether you are a big "L" or small "l" leader. The daily interactions you have with others are opportunities for you to show grace, humility, sacrifice, kindness, and hope. Furthermore, big "L" leaders - those in positions of formal leadership roles - can only influence to the extent that they act in small "l" ways every day. As Jon Gordon says, "The best make everyone around them better." The greatest leaders spend time growing up other leaders, and they seek out ways to help others be their best. 

On the flip side, leaders exemplify humility, they notice others, and intentionally thank them for their contributions. 

Has someone made an impact on your life - in big or small ways - that you haven't thanked them for yet? Are there small, everyday opportunities for you to be for others?

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