Listen to podcast version of this post here: Lead From Within
I wrote earlier in the year asking “Why do others follow you?” The question was largely rooted in understanding the motivations of leaders in various positions and with various titles. Today I want to focus on leadership opportunities, how you can lead without a specific leadership title, and five things that you can do starting today to lead more in your life.
“Leaders are born, not made!” I’ve heard it before, and while I have met people before that I believed to be born leaders, I don’t believe that people are incapable of learning to lead. In fact, I believe that each of us has leadership capacity and can thrive as leaders if we focus our energy and take intentional steps toward leadership. Now, I want to share five examples of individuals that lack leadership titles in the job and/or life whom I believe stand out as excellent leaders.
Devon works for a fast food establishment and usually works the drive-through window. Devon’s managers love having him in that role, because Devon makes customers smile. His attitude is unfailingly positive. He takes an interest in his now-regular customers. He engages with customers and coworkers in a positive and uplifting manner, and everyone really notices Devon’s winning personality. In his role, Devon is leading. New employees are required to work in tandem with Devon to understand what makes him different, and it is evident that the entire team is more productive, happier in their jobs, and garner more return business since Devon joined the company. Devon’s title? Cashier.
Erika is in Accounts Receivable for a medium-sized office supply company. Many of the clients of this company are small business, and cash flow can be a constant stressor to their owners. Erika understands their stresses, as her husband is also a small business owner. They have felt the effects of less than stellar cash flow, so Erika is sensitive to how that feels on the other side of the phone or email. Since starting with the company, the receivables have improved tremendously. When working to determine why, the owners of the office supply company discovered that Erika has an incredible rapport with the customers. While working to collect the moneys due to the company, Erika has been able to make it clear to their customers that cash flow affects everyone, and Erika’s company is no exception. She empathizes with the customers while balancing that empathy with a clear understanding of her job. As new employees in other departments join the company, they are introduced to their new coworkers. Now, the HR representative asks Erika to explain how she does her job with every new hire, so they get an understanding in cash flow and customer empathy. Erika’s title? AR Clerk.
Sharon is a Home Hospice Nurse. For over 12 years, Sharon has been lovingly and, often, sadly entered homes of people who are confronted with terminal illness. With tremendous grace and compassion, Sharon meets people at the corner of pain and grief. With great tact, Sharon leads people through a painful process while addressing the needs of their dying loved ones. Every family is different from another, and Sharon helps patients and their families understand physical realities and emotional responses. She leads them to eventual conclusions, quietly takes her bag, and makes a modest exit. Families regularly comment to Sharon’s supervisors that Sharon made a very difficult transition more bearable with her compassion, authenticity, and honesty. Sharon’s title? Nurse
Carl is the CFO of a steel company. It seems easier to imagine Carl being a leader, because he is in a titled leadership position. Carl, though, leads in a variety of ways. In addition to the financial leadership qualities inherent to Carl’s position, Carl voluntarily leads a health and wellness class for all interested employees in the company. There is no cost to participate, and Carl receives no compensation for the work. Serving in this way, Carl has developed far greater intimacy with most of the participants in the classes (his coworkers). In his classes, Carl isn’t serving in the role of CFO. Carl is a class facilitator, and the people taking the classes know him as simply… Carl. Carl has chosen to lead without regard to title. Carl’s title? Facilitator
Catherine is a sophomore in high school. Last year, the school welcomed a new student that brought with him some limiting physical disabilities. While some of her classmates shunned him and even made fun of him, Catherine decided to befriend him and understand his story. It was through this friendship that Catherine learned of the origin of his disabilities. He had not been born with them. His family was victim to a drunk driver, and he had lost both of his parents in that accident. Now living with other family members, he was new to the area and learning to live with permanent disability and loss of family. Catherine decided that her friend’s situation should remain singular and to spearhead a program in their town to try to end drunk driving. With her friend serving as the face of the campaign, Catherine was able to help reduce alcohol-related accidents by 30% over previous years. By bravely standing by her new friend, Catherine was able to lead in even more ways, driven by her convictions. Catherine’s title? Student
You see, I’ll bet you’ve already had thoughts about ways that you might lead (or already are) while you read these people’s stories. You may even have leadership stories you’d like to share with the world. I would love to hear them. After all, most great examples can serve as templates for the next great leader.
Tomorrow begins today!