We are all leaders, although not all of us would acknowledge it. At some point in our lives, we’ve led people or projects to something or through something. If you’re a parent, you’ve certainly led your children in countless ways. So why don’t more people acknowledge their leadership? Probably because we’ve been led to believe that “leaders” are omnipotent charismatic individuals who do great things – that they are outliers.
I got to thinking about this because graduation season is upon us and I read an op-ed piece in the WSJ this past weekend. It had a tongue-in-cheek list of advice for grads. The last item was to “break the rules” and chart your own path. As much as I believe innovation comes from breaking the rules, there is a lot that doesn’t get done when people are simply rule breakers. (Perhaps question the rules would be a better suggestion…)
To me, the piece of advice that was missing was to “own your own story.” Everything that happens to us, that we do or don’t do, that we are involved in, every choice we make, every opportunity we take or don’t, becomes part of our story. In our stories are chapters of leadership lessons for ourselves and others. If we were more aware of the impact of all that we do, I believe more leaders would show up every day. More people would perceive themselves as leaders and recognize their innate ability to lead.
So much of our lives are now on public display, every action from our early days is available for viewing. With social networking, some of our recent grads have already displayed much of their story – probably to their regret. Rather than “over sharing” some of life’s less interesting moments, what if our awareness shifted to conscious and intentional leadership. What if a moment of leadership on our part inspires someone else to do something remarkable, or change their life in some positive way?
Leaders naturally emerge in a crisis, why wait? Think about a time when you felt proud of something you did or led. Does it bring a smile to your face? You might be a leader. Leadership is not on display 24/7, but it’s inside all of us. Let’s show our kids that everyday actions matter, that all that we do shows who we are. Our stories are being written with every word we speak, every tweet we post, and every action we take. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be the author of that story than have someone else write it.
My advice for grads? Find out who you are, where your inner leader is hiding and intentionally tell your story. Everything matters. In the blink of an eye your story can change so make sure you are present and accounted for in all your chapters. Your leadership story is just waiting to be told.