Reflect on the last time you broke a routine or embraced a bad habit that persisted for longer than intended.
Remember how hard it was to get back on track? I could probably end this article with this being Exhibit A for why you should always see yourself as a leader. But, we shall press onward.
While we have been embracing and breaking habits throughout our lives, many have failed to adopt an essential skill set that sets us up for our most optimal success and even eradicates much of our touch-and-go relationship with positive habits.
Our ability to embrace and utilize leadership as an everyday tool is much more accessible than we realize. It could be the difference between staying stuck, stagnant, and unhappy versus taking ownership of where you are now and where you want to be.
Before we dive more into our focus today—the world of everyday leadership, let's align on the realities and the origins of the word leadership.
When the word leadership makes its way into a conversation, it can often have an oppressive or far-removed undertone, especially when it lacks inclusivity and depth.
The word “leader” comes from an Old English word, “laedan,” which translates to “to go before as a guide.” And, while there is value in knowing the origin of a concept, it's naive and unproductive not to acknowledge the advancements of the world around us, our access to resources, and how we might utilize those things to address our personal and professional matters of the current.
We've come a long way as a civilization since the old English usage of any word. However, with modern technology, societal advances, and a continual increase in the amount of information we have at our fingertips, it is in our best interest to take advantage of these resources and advancements and leverage them to elevate our individual, more specifically, leadership journeys.
How might we rewire ourselves or even remind ourselves that we can be leaders every day, both inside and outside work settings? And how might we use this leadership declaration to be great where we are and permit ourselves to advance to the next level?
I'm glad you asked–rather, I asked, and I hope you asked that, too!
We spend a lot of time asking for permission to do things. From matriculating from our youth to advancing into full-fledged adulthood, we encounter multiple life intersections of asking for permission, from crossing the street to getting a driver's license. So, when we permit ourselves to see ourselves as leaders, we often wait for this permission, which usually never comes. Suppose there isn't someone or some entity actively telling and reminding us that we can and even fully operate as self-leaders. In that case, we could quickly advance through life, never embracing our full leadership opportunities or potential. Furthermore, the critical elements of being an effective and impactful leader are entrenched with skills we utilize daily, but we don't equate them to leadership potential. That is proof of why we have to individually declare that we are a leader and use everyday opportunities to embrace, refine, and look for avenues to elevate those skills.
Embracing Leadership Levels
Leadership journeys and opportunities are not the same, and that's beautiful. If the only way that we could grow in our leadership journeys were if we did it exactly the way that someone else did it, it would leave few opportunities and sometimes be almost impossible. The joys of humankind often rest in our distinct differences. It's what sets us apart from robots.
Luckily, there is a way to enhance your opportunities by embracing leadership opportunities at your level. Instead of a one size fits all leadership model, it is actually in our best interest to assume leadership at different levels:
- Leadership of self
- Leadership of others
- Leadership of communities
- Leadership of movements
This leadership modeling and leveling is essential because it isn't tied to any particular situation or place. It allows people to freely see themselves as leaders, despite their role, position, title, level, or status in life. It eliminates the notion that I must be at a particular level in life–have a specific salary, be in a specific industry, have a formal role at an organization, or manage people to be seen as a leader.
By embracing leadership levels, it allows someone to see themself as a leader at various points in their life, and it will enable them to recognize the leadership qualities that they possess and have acquired while encouraging them to see other ways that they can develop and refine these skills, even in nontraditional ways and situations.
Lead In Unexpected Places and Situations
If you consider some of the top leadership qualities that are often regaled and highlighted, they are skills that aren't exclusive to just the workplace. From negotiation and delegation to communication, giving feedbackm and self-awareness, these skills can be discovered, defined, and refined in any environment. So, while you are busy navigating your life and tending to things that happen outside the workplace, you are also likely discovering and refining skills that you can utilize inside of the workplace as well.
Furthermore, your ability and declaration that you are a leader unlock the opportunity for you to see yourself differently.
Many people who often speak of their life before and after children speak of this newfound sense of responsibility, worth, and focus. So, likewise, people newly entering the realm of leading many people in their organization often have this immense responsibility for their well-being and livelihood.
Imagine if you took that same approach to your declaration of and your role as a leader—even a self-leader. That euphoric feeling we often get when we embrace the magnitude of taking care of and being responsible for someone or something else should be what we seek for ourselves. Although you may have people who care about you, perhaps even a workplace that fulfills or sustains you, you are still responsible for yourself, including your leadership journey and growth. And that all starts with you recognizing your ability and opportunity to lead daily as an everyday leader.
Leadership Does Not Require Perfection
Perfectionism is a dangerous game, mainly because it's unwinnable. But, somehow, someway, we often get caught in this trap of trying to be perfect in our lives, and when we don't reach this perfection peak, we feel terrible because we were seeking something unachievable. Furthermore, the people we may be leading personally and professionally can't be perfect, so attempting to showcase perfection for their sake is also fleeting.
On your path to being an everyday leader, it is in your best interest to prioritize the ability to connect and relate versus showcasing something impossible: perfection. Think about the things you may have made a mistake on in your past, the things that perhaps silently make you cringe, ashamed, embarrassed, or horrified. As tough as these things may be to reflect on and remember, take a small amount of solace in knowing that you are not alone. People misstep, make massive mistakes and slip up on their daily leadership journeys.
Instead of pursuing perfection, it is in our best interest to willingly embark on this leadership journey of discovering, defining, and refining. It is an opportunity for us to get started while also taking note of where we may have misstepped to avoid it for ourselves in the future and also be a model to other people that we may be leading so that they, too, can prevent that leadership mistake.
It's also worth noting that your leadership journey may come with some doubt. The last time I checked, none of us had graced this world. When we were born, we began this life journey for the first time, figuring things out, making mistakes, and attempting to move in the direction we most want. Well, it shouldn't be surprising that we will have some level of doubt.
While many people cringe at managing self-doubt, anxiety, imposter syndrome, fears, etc. (as do I sometimes), it's not too far-fetched to accept that these things are also quite normal. Our body has built-in mechanisms like the amygdala, designed to signal fear, the unknown, or discomfort. So, on this journey of permitting yourself to be the best leader, accept that there may be discomfort, fear, and anxiety, but also accept that you're not perfect and that experiencing those things is normal.
The opportunities for you, your career, and your growth can be endless, but it requires you first to take a step and declare that you are a leader.
Being an everyday leader starts with one significant person—you, and requires you to declare that today and every day, you are a leader and that you'll make the commitment to discover, define and refine the leader with you.