Our lives are filled with examples of leadership. We often think work when we think leader, but in every area of our lives, we have been impacted by leaders. Because we are not immune to the impacts that leaders have on us, it seems important that we take stock of these impacts and consider the impact we have had on others.
When I first made my way into the real world of work after college, I had a couple of bosses who really weren’t good examples of leadership in my young life. The first was all over the place. He wouldn’t let me finish one project before he was asking about another, and he was rude to other employees whom he didn’t seem to personally like. He was demanding yet a terrible decision maker. It didn’t go well, and I ended up leaving there on principles alone. I just couldn’t take working for him.
I didn’t land in much of a better place on my second attempt at a grown-up job. My boss had, to put it nicely, jerk characteristics. He was arrogant and self-serving. He had run through many assistants, and before long I knew that I would be a causality as well. He wielded power without thinking of the humans on the other side of his comments and demands. When he asked me to falsify a tax document going to one of our contractors, I knew it was time to get out. I gave him the document unsigned and made my plans to exit.
After tasting this bit of the business world, I decided to head back to graduate school to get my master’s degree to teach at a university. I took a cut in pay and worked part-time for the Writing Center on the Nicholls State University campus. I was a faculty tutor, and I quickly learned that there was much to learn about how to be a real leader, but this time I had a mentor worth modeling.
My writing center boss showed me more about being a leader than any previous person had, and I don’t even know that she would have called herself a “leader” in the way that the world likes to use the word. Carol was kind in her demands. She had high expectations and trusted me to live up to those. She had personal values that were evident in the work that she did on the job. She did any task that needed doing, and she demonstrated that nothing is beneath even the top person in the ranks. In her humble approach to work, she showed me how to show up as a leader without even needing a title.
I witnessed Carol reprimanding through the lens of love for others. I saw her mentor young people into doing better work with more passion and true confidence. Carol didn’t mention her authority or use it as a way to intimidate. She never said, “I am the boss.” She never even seemed to believe that was important. She certainly knew her responsibility and that she was responsible for the success of the Center. She knew that the buck stopped with her as they say. She was more than willing to take the heat when mistakes were made or when our workers didn’t do what they needed to do. She was a leader in all of the ways that one should be a leader, and she never even mentioned her authority.
The amazing thing about working under a person who is truly a leader is that you likely won’t even know that you are learning so very much about leading. It just seems to seep, to ooze out into the environment.
There’s a love that true leaders give out to the world. And the great thing about this leading is that it doesn’t take a title or a position or a certain job. It doesn’t take having people working under you or people answering to you. It just takes a humble spirit that sees value in the situations and people around you and seeks to add positive into the world.
I realize now how blessed I was to have that time at the Writing Center with Carol. It would be many years and much study in business communication before I came to appreciate what I learned there. When I turned my attention to using our communication to honor others and truly have a powerful positive impact on them, what was so subtle then became starkly obvious to me.
What does leadership look like to you? Do you envision someone with poise and courage. A well-spoken individual who can command the room and really get his or her point across? Maybe, based on your experiences, you conjure up a somewhat negative image. One of harshness and discourteousness. One that says, “I am in charge. Do what I say.”
Leadership is so very important, yet we seem to have an illusive critter on our hands. The millions maybe billions of dollars spent every year on leadership training tells us that it’s a sought after skill. Something people think or know that they need in order to advance, to get ahead. But what are we really teaching people? Are we really teaching people? Can you really learn in a training how to be a leader? Or is it something that you have to desire to be and work to become?
Pictures like the one attached to this post show up a lot when you search “leadership.” You’ll get all sorts of variations to this, but they all are very similar in that one person or pawn or ball or star stands apart from the others and sets itself apart. They are prominent, most times a different color and altogether seemingly superior in some way. Honestly, I don’t like these as images of leadership.
As leaders, why should we be set apart? Why do we want to look different? Why would we want to be alone? True leaders want to be part of the group. They want to lift up others. They want to push others to be the center of attention. They want to lead from the back so that others can learn to be in the front. They are humble and courageous in that humility.
It doesn’t take position or power or fame or fortune to lead.
It takes heart.
It takes courage.
It takes humility.
It takes love.
You can be a leader from right where you are right now. Don’t look around for opportunities to lead. Every single moment of your life gives you the opportunity to lead.
Lead others and lead yourself. Craft the lead that you have by paying attention to how you connect with others. Build other people up with your leading.
Lead because you Love. That’s what Carol did. Thank you, Carol.
Connie Benoit Sirois
Author | Speaker | Trainer
We are called to love others as ourselves. Our communication gives us continual opportunities to do this. We should never miss a chance to honor others. I’d love for you to read about my mission.
Find out how to increase your ability to have a positive impact on others, even when situations and people are negative.