Everyday Leadership

If I asked you the question, “Do you think you are a leader?” How would you answer?

If the answer was “no”, I would have to ask, “Why?”  We all have moments of leadership in our lives, where we inspire someone, to do the right thing, listen with a compassionate ear, are helpful to somebody in need … we all have the capacity to practice “random acts of leadership” every day.  One doesn’t need to be Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Oprah Winfrey to be a leader.  Every parent is a leader, every employee is a leader – our “title” in life should not define us!

I have created a Top Ten Item list to inspire all of us to raise our game, elevate ourselves to make the world a better place and to practice more random acts of leadership:

1)  Lose the Ego

Gone are the days where the top brass of companies wore expensive suits, sat in plush executive offices and had secretaries be their gatekeepers to keep out the “riff-raff”.  The top leaders of companies today are in the trenches with the troops, wearing the same clothes and sitting in cubicles or offices much like everyone else.  Lose the ego and be one with everyone else in order to gain respect and buy-in.

2)  Be Kind

Be kind when nobody is looking.  Help someone out with an idea, some extra money, a ride, add value to those who need it and don’t publicize it.  No need to put it on social media to enhance your image.  Leave a thank you note and some extra money in your hotel room to the maids who clean up after you … it goes a long way!

3) Praise Often

Most of us focus on what’s wrong in the world on a daily basis instead of what’s right.  Catch people doing things well in the moment and let them know.  Keep a stack of cards in your desk drawer and send “thank you” notes or just a letter telling somebody how wonderful they are and what a difference they make in your world.  Put it in regular mail with a stamp and see the response you get! 

4)  Look for Solutions to Problems

There is a solution to our problems, we just need to be creative and see what we can come up with.  If the problem is “too much email on a daily basis and excessive company demands on how soon we need to respond,” then we can create a dialog with the key executives in the organization to create a protocol of “company guidelines on answering email” … or something like that. Instead of being like everyone and whining incessantly about it, be proactive and make it happen.

5)  Forgive

By holding on to the past, we put ourselves in a miserable standstill.  Somebody once said, “Not forgiving is like drinking poison and wanting the other person to die!”  We just hurt ourselves by being unforgiving.  We need to forgive others so we can move on; it’s really for us.

7)  Be Present

Live in the moment, not in the past or the future.  When we communicate with others, we need to be in the moment, not on electronics or anything that might distract us from what we should be focused on.

7)  Develop People

Whether we are a manager, boss or a parent, there are opportunities every day where we could give someone feedback to help them with something they could improve or give them praise to motivate them to keep going.  Too many people sit back and let others fail because they are too scared to step up and say something that actually might help somebody.  The key is to present it in a positive way.

8)  Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)

Decide to be in a good mood!  Quick trick: paste a SMILE on your face, even if it is fake at first.  We can change our emotional state by using the chemistry that is created when we smile – it’s magical.  More on “leadership” … it’s impossible to be elected President in the United States if we come across as “crotchety or grouchy”.  President Kennedy was the first beneficiary of the television era when he beat Richard Nixon in the first-ever live TV debates.  Why?  Because he was positive, debonair and appealing, whereas Nixon looked negative and grouchy (he wasn’t feeling well that day).  So, be upbeat and positive and see how the world responds.

9)  Be Organized and Reliable

We all appreciate those who respect our time, have integrity with their word and do what they say they are going to do without drama.  In order to be all these things, we need to be organized – have our act together, be punctual and learn how to say “no” to interruptions like email and phone calls at certain times.  Many of us are actually more unproductive than ever because we are constantly stopping and starting tasks instead of doing them in one shot to completion.  We lose one to two hours a day by doing this.

10) Take Time Out to Reflect

Never in history has more been expected of us in one day than now!  Sometimes it feels like we are being squeezed from all directions and there is never a minute to relax and take a break … a REAL break (not watching TV while doing work emails, texting and talking to our kids at the same time).  What does a real break look like?  It could be as simple as going for a walk/run without our phone or music, being disconnected for a short time.  Take a yoga class where the only goal is to stretch and breathe; or even better take a vacation and set boundaries around technology and say NO to interruptions; find trusted people who can take care of things while we are gone.  Nelson Mandela, one of the world’s greatest leaders, took 27 years to ponder and reflect while he was in prison – he used that time to come out a transformed human being and he was ready to change the world when he was released!

I will close with this quote by Nelson Mandela, my inspiration for what it means to be a true leader, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

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