You are a leader in everything you do. Not just the moments you have positional authority over others. Every second of the day presents the opportunity to lead. This is true whether you are a CEO, receptionist, father, child, coach, or athlete. I’ve been thinking about leadership a lot because it is popping up in my personal life with my wife and kids, at church, and at work. I’ve also recently transitioned into project management and for the first time in my career, I am managing processes almost exclusively and not directly supervising people. I still deal with a lot of people and I still use essentially the same skill set. However, nobody does anything for me now because of any true authority it’s 100% relationship oriented. I’ve always lead in a way that was dependent on developing relationships. However, it’s still a small adjustment and it started me thinking about leadership in general and how it’s a bit different.
Being a Leader With Your Family:
I was talking to my wife Shawna the other night and she reminded me of something I do consistently that comes straight out of one of my favourite leadership books of all time: The 360 Degree Leader. It was about doing something trivial that everyone knows I do not want or like to do, but I do anyway because I know it is important to set the right example.
“As a leader, the first person I need to lead is me. The first person that I should try to change is me”. – John C. Maxwell
I’m going to be honest here and say I HATE green beans. I don’t just dislike them, I detest them. However, I am aware they are good for me and I have some picky eaters in my family so I eat them without complaint. Part of it is so they will eat something healthy and see me do it too. Another part of it is so nobody can say: “Dad doesn’t eat green beans so I’m not either!” I was smart enough to know that asking them to eat something they don’t like when I would not, was hypocritical at best and a poor display of leadership. Knowing this, I suck it up and eat them anyway. My wife was using this as an example to one of the kids about doing things you don’t want to do because it is the right thing. Whats funny is this kid knew I did that and acknowledged it. I’ve never mentioned that I do this and I don’t make a big deal out of it, but I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that they know I don’t like them, that I eat them anyway. Honestly I was a bit surprised, but it reinforced the idea that your kids watch and listen to everything you do.
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell
Another example that is a bit more serious is related to dealing with my Adult ADHD. I had gone 42 years and never been on any sort of ADHD medicine. I didn’t want it and honestly, didn’t think I needed it. Both my ex and current wife encouraged me to try something for years and I just refused for a number of reasons. If I’m being honest, I was aware I had some annoying issues, but I had learned to live with them and I had what was in my mind a reasonable expectation everyone else would as well.
I have 3 kids with ADHD all three of whom benefit tremendously from taking their medication. I’m not sure what sparked it but two of them were occasionally resistant to taking it and saying it didn’t help. Everybody knows this is simply not true and I had told them how important it was for months but gaining little ground. I had spent a lot of time thinking of ways to show them how important this was and was getting nowhere fast. Finally, one day I woke up and said: “self, you need to take the same stuff they do.” I had finally realized what a hypocrite I was being. Nobody had to tell me, I just reflected one day and realized I was a huge jerk if I insisted they do something I refused to do. That same day I told Shawna: “I think I need to start taking Intuniv too.” Honestly, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am so much happier now and I am able to relax in a way I have never been able to in my entire life. I wish I had done it years ago. Besides feeling better, by taking it myself I was able to show that I was 100% bought into the process of dealing with not only their ADHD but my own as well. My entire family is happier because of it. If you are a parent, you have probably already realized that your children are watching everything you do. Because of this one decision all three of my kids are now happily taking their medication and we have a calmer happier home because of it.
“If you are a parent, you have probably already realized that your children are always watching what you do. And just as children watch their parents and emulate their behavior, so do employees who are watching their bosses.” – John C. Maxwell
Being a Leader at Work
One of the most fun things I use to do as a sales manager was to jump on the phone Saturday morning during our phone-a-thons and set some appointments. It was fun for several reasons. First, I’m a great salesperson and it’s fun to do things you are good at especially if it’s out of your norm. Second, I’m competitive and I wanted to set more appointments than anyone because it’s fun to talk a little smack with my top performers and work hard. More importantly, my mid and low performers saw me demonstrating skills I had taught in training and it reinforced that training because I could prove I not only talked the talk but could walk the walk. Finally, I dialed because they LOVED it. Seriously, everyone likes to see their boss do their job and it’s good leadership to join in on Saturday morning when nobody wants to be there.
Opportunities to lead are everywhere if you are looking for them. in everything, you do someone is watching and learning. My goal every day is to make sure they learn something positive.
For Further Study:
If you are looking to improve yourself and be a better leader in every situation I recommend you buy John C Maxwell’s The 360 Degree leader.
Tell me about a hidden leadership opportunity you found in the comments!