A while ago, I had dinner with Greet Bunnens from YouBrandBuilder. Very inspiring, and it set me thinking about Leadership. The question that Greet triggered: when we talk about Leadership, there often seems to be this big misunderstanding ?
With regards to Leadership, what are the first things that cross our mind?
- A government leader announcing big military decisions ?
- An automotive Executive stepping down after his company committed fraud ?
- The President of the European Commmission expressing his views on the refugees crisis ?
It’s remarkable how we naturally mix up “Leadership” and “Power” with all its spotlights, media coverage, which seems to be reserved for extraordinary, exceptional people.
Yet, there is a true Leader inside of all of us. Maybe we have have been trained very well to hide this leadership talent, but stil: it’s there. Leadership is not about titles or positions.
It is about having a positive impact on the story of your own life (“self-leadership”), and more importantly, on the story of other people’s life. It’s about inspiring people, motivating them to get things changed. Even if you don’t have (hierarchical) power.
Now, this is the good news: every single moment, 24/7, we have 100% degree of freedom, about what to do next. Our life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we respond to it. Whatever your title or postion in an organisation, with EVERY little problem and with every little crisis comes a great opportunity to release your leadership talent, and to show it to the world.
We can stand up & change our organisation into something better. For example, we can decide to skip the quick & dirty solution to a known problem, and then inspire co-workers, other teams, our boss, etc. to aim at a better, more profound, longer-lasting solution.
But then the bad news : we may think that it will never work out. We may think it’s not worth it, that the solution to this tiny little problem won’t make a big difference to the organisation. The little (and mean) voice inside of each of us may tell us that we won’t be taken seriously. And next: if we don’t try it, we will be proven ABSOLUTELY right.
It’s easy and almost natural to be afraid and to be worried: you may have observed in your organisation that trying to change things is not always the smartest career move. You may have experienced the “Not Invented Here”-syndrome, etc. You may have hit a wall, when even the smalllest, tiny little budget was not made available for something that would really help your collegues, your customers, etc.
But still, your leadership talent is there, inside, waiting to be released. In the 19the century, John Quincy Adams defined leadership as follows:
Whatever your “power” (or lack of it), whatever formal role in an organisation you take up: if you can inspire others to become better, you’re a true leader. This can be about something very small. If you inspire your coworkers to stop consuming bottled water and if you can motivate them to drink water from the tap, even in a small organisation that will save thousands of euros, and massive quantities of plastics.
Figure out what’s your passion … Running ? If you can convince only a couple of people around you, and get them moving, you will improve their life tremendously, for the better.
Leadership does not mean you need to be in the spotlights (all the time), and that it is all about you as the visionary, strong, exceptional leader.
On the contrary, when you try to influence others, it can be done in a soft & humble manner :
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” (Lao Tzu)
How do you become this kind of leader? It starts with trying to understand others.
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” (Ralph Nichols)
Leadership seems strongly connected to confidence & self-confidence. Once we take the little step to go out & inspire others to dream, we need to be confident that we can and will be successful.
The good thing is, confidence is contagious : it spreads easily, once you believe in a Dream, then others may be willing to believe in it too. Leadership is about your passion and your belief to make things happen. Of course it’s wise to remain a “humble” leader.
But when you remain too humble, and too scared, etc., you forget to shine, and you neglect your own strength. And then you forget the impact that a small, tiny little mosquito can have in your bedroom !