“Real leadership emerges over time as an expression of who you are and what you do every day. More than anything, it takes shape as a result of everyday practice.” -excerpt from Real Leadership
What does your everyday routine look like?
If I guessed, I would expect it to look something like mine, which goes something like this:
- Wake up
- Eat breakfast
- Spend time at the office
- Meet with colleagues or clients
- Spend time at home with family
- Go to sleep
Of course, some little things here and there fill in the gaps (I won’t bore you with the details), but really, nothing about that schedule seems inherently special. It’s just my day-to-day, and it’s mundane–normal, even.
That’s because the magic of transformational leadership happens within those seemingly uneventful things I do every single day.
This inspires my next question: What is leadership?
What is Leadership?
Q: Leadership is ___________________.
A: Leadership is open to interpretation.
You can ask, “What is leadership?” all day and get four hundred different answers. Of course, I have my thoughts on what leadership qualities belong to a good leader, but at the end of the day, the truth is that authentic leadership looks different under different microscopes.
However, there is a defining factor of a leader: their investment in others.
Can Anyone Be A Leader? (Yes)
“John, you say anyone can be a leader. How is that true? What makes someone a leader?”
I get the questions all of the time about why I think everyone is capable of real, thought leadership, and to that, I say, “It’s just true.” Leadership qualities look different on everyone, but everyone is capable of them.
Leaders are people working with people, and leaders are people working on themselves. That intersection is where transformational leadership starts.
Anyone is capable of leadership because it is one thing that is 100% human. There is always an opportunity to step up to authentic leadership as long as people are investing in people’s lives; that’s where authentic leadership lies.
Who Are Everyday Leaders?
Everyday leaders are…people investing in the greater good.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say creating and distributing goodness is a defining factor of authentic leadership. Everyday leadership looks like an extra few moments to say “thank you” or take the time to let someone know when they have done an excellent job. Everyday leaders look for every opportunity to celebrate success and encourage confidence in individuals.
Everyday leaders are…people who mess up.
“Perfection” is not a skill set one needs to become a good leader.
Leaders aren’t perfect people, and they never try to be. Instead, leaders work to set reasonable goals and don’t view failure as an ending but rather the beginning of a lesson.
Everyday leaders are…people who listen.
We’ve all been in one of those situations where we feel like we are 100% right without bending to the thoughts or opinions of others.
While staying true to yourself and your beliefs is also a quality of a good leader, ensuring you’re listening and considering different perspectives is necessary for truly transformational leadership.
Everyday leaders are…people who value time.
There are 1,440 minutes in a day, and a leader ensures not many get wasted. Leaders show up on time and thank others for contributing to a project, conversation, or meeting.
Leaders know time is irreplaceable and navigate their lives accordingly, respecting everyone’s time.
Numerous demonstrations of authentic leadership can be seen by people every single day; I say this to remind you that you cannot schedule grand, transformational leadership. Instead, you have to put your leadership qualities to practice within your everyday life.
How to Practice Real Leadership Every Day
To practice real leadership, we have to consistently ask ourselves the question, “what is real leadership?”
To me, a real leader is someone who is always seizing the opportunity to be more or do more for the sake of contributing to the greater good.
Talking to your colleagues? How can you show them that you care and consider their opinions?
Getting your kids to do their homework? How can you use your patience and guidance to help your child through to the other side of those worksheets?
Checking out at the grocery store? How can you ensure the cashier knows they’re appreciated?
Every day, people become the leaders of our everyday lives.
Think of the leader you look up to most. No matter who you’re thinking of, I can almost guarantee that person didn’t spend all of their time “being a leader.”
The leaders you look up to spend their time being ordinary people, exuding leadership qualities, practicing authentic leadership.
Leadership is deeply-rooted in our daily lives. Within those regular activities that make up your schedule, where can you give a little extra effort to put your thought leadership skills to work?
The Everyday People Behind Real Leadership
What do the behind-the-scenes of leadership look like?
Spoiler Alert: Leaders are regular people with an exceptional understanding of the world around them.
Everyday leaders are celebrating their life. They’re bringing people together. They’re working to move anything and everything forward. The everyday people behind real leadership look like a lot of things, but most of all, they’re the ones making constant investments in people, places, and things.
The everyday people of real leadership are mothers, doctors, grocery store clerks, artists, teachers, builders, movers and shakers. These people are the moving parts. We don’t always see them at work, but they’re investing every day to make an impact on the lives they get to be a part of, keeping us all ticking forward.
I often say that leadership is scarce; however, I still believe that anyone can learn authentic leadership each day. It does not matter where a person comes from as long as they’re invested in a better tomorrow.
How Can You Utilize Your Leadership Style in Your Regular Schedule?
Some will say there are seven leadership styles. Others will tell you there are five leadership styles, but in my opinion, there are countless leadership styles, and the best leaders know that it takes a mixture of a lot of leadership styles to achieve the results they’re looking for in their team.
Similar to leadership styles, I like to encourage growing leaders to locate their leadership superpowers. Combining leadership superpowers with personal leadership styles help people excel in their everyday lives. When utilizing the best parts of yourself, authentic leadership and transformational leadership are born.
Utilize the Superpowers You Don’t Regularly Acknowledge
We all have leadership superpowers that we probably put to good use every single day without even realizing it. This could include the way you approach situations or how you have conversations with others. It could mean the way you think about things or your willingness to continue learning.
If you’re curious about what your leadership superpower is, you can click here to take my leadership superpower quiz.
Leadership superpowers are what I call the leadership qualities you already possess. You may not realize they’re superpowers just yet, but the more you learn about leading in your everyday life, the better you’ll understand how to put your gifts to work every day.
Is Authentic Leadership Where People Come Together?
I believe that people deserve to find their community. Some people have been tasked with creating these communities, and those are the people I identify as leaders.
When I ask people what they think someone could do to become a better leader, I hear the same assumptions a lot; I hear how leaders are these fearless people, marching toward the battlegrounds of life, swords high in the air.
That isn’t the way leadership works, and that’s because people forget one of the key factors of leadership: being human.
Here are a few things I hear people often say about leadership:
#1: Leaders are fearless.
Wrong. Fear is a normal part of life, and I would be more concerned if someone completely lacked fear! Way, way back, when people started to populate the earth, fear was one of their biggest assets. Acting on fear and a desire for preservation is what kept our oldest ancestors alive.
I will say that I never want you to feel so fearful that you can’t push yourself out of your comfort zone every now and then to reach your goals. I also never want you to feel ashamed of your fears. Instead, let’s work together to either work those fears out or put those fears to work.
#2: You must stay positive!
While positivity is a great thing to practice, it isn’t a reasonable assumption that leaders are positive all of the time. We know how hard life can be, and we’ve been through the storms of life, and we’ve seen the other side. I guarantee you that I have not smiled my way through every single part of my journey on Earth.
I think that great leaders allow their feelings to be present; they embrace life and all of its complex emotions. It’s through those experiences that people find relation and comfort. Feel the feelings you need to; you’ll be better for it.
#3: Question Everything.
Not everything needs to be challenged right here and now.
I love the idea of a challenge, but there are times in life where it’s better to listen than to speak. It is better to accept and navigate than to question every little thing.
I want every one of you to step up to leadership, but I don’t want a single one of you to feel like leadership is unachievable because you just aren’t “enough.”
It’s okay if you don’t fit the leadership stereotype. The world is not this or that; it includes all of us as we celebrate our unique talents and inherent abilities to help others flourish and thrive.
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