“My biggest challenge was getting comfortable with the notion that I am a leader; I don’t line manage a team of people which in the past to me seemed a pre-requisite for leadership. I’m quiet, I have a natural preference to work collaboratively rather than compete with others. How can I lead?”
This is the start of a reflective piece by one of my participants as she completes her yearlong leadership programme.
As I am reading her assignment, I am wondering if the term ‘leadership’ has become something bigger than us, something removed from the grasp of the ordinary people? Is it still something reserved for those who have been given the title, run a company or a business or lead a team?
Gone are the days when organisations can exist with one leader at the top. For organisations to remain competitive, innovative, agile, adaptable… leadership must extend beyond the boardroom and through the layers to the frontline.
I believe that everyone has leadership potential and it is not exclusive to people who have badges. Many people do not think of themselves as leaders because they do not hold such positions or authority or feel that calling themselves ‘leaders’ is arrogant, lofty or beyond their realm.
This is not so. Each and every one of us has the ability to develop and exercise leadership… be it at home, at school, in the community, at work… One of the facets of leadership is about finding everyday ways to make a difference. Making a difference does not have to earth shattering or life changing. There are many things that we can do to make a difference to those around us.
Where are the opportunities to exercise leadership?
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. It is a way of Being and Doing. It is who we are and what we do – 24/7. When you do go to work, do you put your ‘leadership hat’ on and then take it off when you leave?
Opportunities for leadership, to make a difference, to influence, to create positive change, to be a role model…can be found in abundance in the context of our daily lives through our relationships with others.
Leadership is very much a social process. Unless you are a hermit living on an island you will have relationships with other people. These may be immediate ones such as your husband, wife, children, boss, employees, team, peers, friends. Or not so close ones such as those with schools, clubs, community, church. Or distant ones, such as being a passenger, customer, passer-by…
Just having contact with others, whether it is face to face or virtual, provides opportunities for you to make a make a difference…. in the way you behave, interact, communicate, respond to situations, your warmth, tone of voice, your smile, your attitude, your demeanour … You have the power to make that difference with every interaction.
Leadership is not reserved for the extroverted
Our world is not full of gregarious and ‘shine a light’ on me type people. You do not have to the centre of attention, always talking, be the one to fill the silence…..to be a confident leader.
Introverts are more receptive to people as they listen, they engage, they do not dominate the space, instead they create space for others to enter into dialogue and to offer suggestions, feedback and ask questions.
“The vast majority of difficult, important human problems -both inside and outside organizations – are not solved by a swift, decisive stroke from someone at the top. What usually matters are careful, thoughtful, practical efforts by people working far from the limelight. In short, quiet leadership is what moves and changes the world.” Joseph Badaracco. If you are quiet, thoughtful, introverted…be proud of your disposition and of your style of leadership.
Leading collaboratively builds relationships and connects people. This could be from across disciplines, sectors, organisations, supply chains, generations…which results in better buy in and encourages a sense of ownership, shifting from ‘I will work on your goal’ to ‘we are committed to working on our goal’.
Collaborative leadership can lead to increase trust, access to more and better information and ideas, different perspectives resulting in enhanced creativity, innovation and learning
Working collaboratively means letting go of control and allowing individuals to take more responsibility and accountability for decision making. Are you ready to let go of control and encourage others to step up and take the initiative?
Don’t look to others for leadership
Leadership is a journey without a final destination. You don’t reach a point where you become the ‘best’ leader and stop there. There will always be situations, events and people who will test and challenge you and new learning to be gained.
And on that journey you have the power to inspire, shape, influence and develop others…. what a wonderful opportunity that is.
Don’t look to others for leadership. Or wait for them to lead. Take responsibility. Seize the opportunity and choose to make a difference and be the difference. You have the power
within you to affect and impact the lives of those around you. Take it.
Photo credit: Flickr user Håkan Dahlström
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