Everyday leadership. What does it mean to you?

I first ventured into the world of leadership back in the early 90’s. I didn’t know it as ‘leadership’ then.

I landed a role which was a step up in my career and it soon became apparent that my principles, values and professional ethics were being compromised by what was happening and not happening in the department.

I did what I felt and thought was the right thing to do, despite much resistance and no support. It happened naturally and as a matter of course. It took 2 years of grit to become a high performing, award winning, exceeding expectations, over delivering… (and much more) department with a team of highly motivated and enthused staff who were stretching themselves and creating innovative services for the department.

About a year later, I was asked if I wanted to participate in a 1 year leadership development programme. I did and then everything fell into place…what was being taught was what I had been doing for the past 3 years.

Over the next decade, I studied and taught a range of leadership models, theories, concepts and went on to incorporate them into leadership development programmes.

As my work became more diverse (away from the organisational setting), I began to move away from the notion that leadership is to do with those who bear the title or are designated the role and that there is no one definitive model/ concept / theory of leadership, what it is and the qualities and actions that it requires.

I began to notice a connection with leadership AND everyday life and leadership IN everyday life and began to explore these in my blogs. Some of which are below:

My journey of leadership has brought me to place where I believe that:

Leadership is everywhere around us …it crosses boundaries at work, at home, at play and  is embedded in our daily lives and makes us who we are. When you leave the office, you don’t leave your leadership behind. When you go on holiday, you don’t leave your leadership at home. It is a way of Being and Doing.

Leadership is for everyone and is not exclusive to those who have been given the title, run a company, lead a team…Good leadership exist within our homes, families, communities, workplaces…if we all became effective role models how different will our world be?

For me, leadership is finding everyday ways to make a difference. This happens in the context of our daily lives through our relationships with others and can be found in the workplace, at home, at play, in the community, church, school, clubs, world….

Making a difference is not age dependent. Take Martha Payne, the 9 year old who wrote a blog, neverseconds where she reviewed her school lunches and talked about healthy eating. She hoped to raise a few hundred pounds for her favourite charity, Mary’s Meals. Martha went on to raise over £115,000 for Mary s Meals and is impacting the lives of children in Malawi.

What you do or don’t do matters, as it impacts and influences those around you. I wonder:

  • Is this is a conscious deliberate choice or a subconscious one?
  • What triggers it?
  • What makes some people choose and some don’t?

I would love to hear your thoughts and perspectives on the above and on the following  questions:

  1. How would it be if leadership became more mainstream?
  2. What would it look like if leadership moved away from the work/organisational setting and be seen as something that everyone has and can be developed?
  3. Should leadership be introduced at an early age, for example in schools?
  4. Is our responsibility to be good role models limited to being a personal one?
  5. What are your thoughts on leadership being part of our everyday lives?

Images: Flickr users WabbyTwaxxindi.ca

I work with women who are advancing their careers and businesses, women who have left  employment to build profitable businesses AND develop teams and people within organisations through coaching, mentoring and leadership development programmes. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead and on LinkedIn


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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8 Responses to Everyday leadership. What does it mean to you?

  1. Pilar says:

    Leadership is… Saying Hello when you arrive and Good-bye when you leave. In the workplace and in everyday life, it’s amazing how many people just don’t do it.

    We should all lead by example at some point and stop relying on “official leaders” to do so.

    Thanks for the questions! Could sit here typing all day!

    • verawoodhead says:

      Thank you Pilar for stopping by.Like your comment about ‘stop relying on “official leaders” to do so’. Think we all all need to take responsibility for being good role models

  2. Graham Frost says:

    What an amazing post. I had a similar experience when I became a leader. I was offered an opportunity and took it. This was over twenty years ago. Then I thought back through all the so-called leaders that I had worked for and with over the years. The ones that had been the most positive role models for me had been the ones that I worked with, rather than for. So, I worked with my team, rather than expecting them to work ‘for’ me.
    Many years later members of that team still say that was the best team they were ever part of. It wasn’t ‘my’ team, it was ‘our’ team.
    I have since had the opportunity to practice and hone my leadership skills further with voluntary roles in Toastmasters International, where I have had the pleasure of ‘leading’ several successful teams in the area of personal development.
    Finally, my favourite quote: ‘People don’t remember what you say, or what you do. People remember how you made them feel’. I think there are a lot of leaders out there who would do well to read that and put it into practice.

    • verawoodhead says:

      Thank you for those positive words Graham – means a lot to me. Great story about working as a team. Reminds me of “there is no ‘I’ in team?” Toastmasters is an effective way of developing your leadership – especially in terms of being able to communicate, engage and story tell…so fundamental in leadership.
      Re your quote – mine is when all 3 are aligned:
      “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Ghandi

  3. Julie@fuchsiablue says:

    Vera, I really loved the post and all that you ask about…. so many questions around this Leadership thing.

    I’ve been in conversation about the edges between leadership & followership of late -thinking about when it is time to rescind our “leader” status in service of a wider group, or in acknowledgement of where our style may lead to a less-successful outcome; thinking about when to invite someone forward to step into a place of responsibility, allowing or encouraging some creating and shaping of people, resources and thoughts into something new and useful…..perhaps this links to Pilar’s request to stop relying on official leaders and Graham’s observations about “working with”? Perhaps leadership as a concept generally could do with a little more flexibility?

    I’m always going to put forward that leadership is about relationships and good conversations dialogue. It’s just how I see the world. Being able to express difference and engage with others’ views. Being able to articulate dissent, curiosity and a very clear pathway, while allowing, even encouraging, others to join or explore within that until something emerges that is more “right” for a situation than “wrong” for a situation….

    for future generations? I’d seek to encourage debate, curiosity – asking good questions and encourage them to be appreciatively critical thinkers…. for me, that would be where leadership begins.

    • verawoodhead says:

      Thank you for the posiitve feedback and taking time out to comment – it is much valued.

      Had a debate in a LinkedIn group about followership. An excerpt:
      “We we need to have a more expansive perspective of leadership that takes into account both followers and leaders – one cannot happen without the other!
      Since Kelley’s novel proposal that followers have an active role to play in organsations back in 1988 (HBR article) there has not been an explosion of interest in ‘followership’ as there is on leadership
      (the latter more power and status)
      I use Barbara Kellerman’s typology of followership which are based on levels of engagement – isolates (completely detached) through to passionately committed and deeply involved (diehards) to explore to what level, followers are buying into what leaders are selling. Can be a real eye opener for leaders when looking from another perspective
      Followers can also act in their own self interest just as leaders do – they may not have authority but they sure have power and influence – something that leaders sometimes forget”

      Firmly believe that we need to move away from leadership as position to leadership as practice- everyday common daily occurences.It’s a dynamic social process which emerges in and through our relationships and engagement with others.

  4. Terry says:

    I like the way you have emphasised leadership is both being and doing. If leaders just focus on the ‘doing’ then people can experience this as manipulation as there tends to be an over relience on technique. ‘Being’ a leader involves connecting with your value (as you experienced) and connecting with other people emotionally.

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