There are many definitions of everyday leadership and they usually revolve around the standard leader in a company; however, if we’re talking about being an everyday leader in the home, in the community, on the job, or just in one’s own life, the definition changes and it should. In this case, an everyday leader would be:
The person who makes an intentional effort to positively impact others.
In the home, this may be the person who makes an effort to connect with other family members for the purpose of listening, serving, and creating meaningful relationships. In the community, this may be the one who sees a need and fulfills it independently, or enlists the help of others to meet the need. On the job, the leader is the person who motivates team members and helps guide them to excellence, all the while meeting the mission of the organization. In one’s own life, being a leader could incorporate reflecting on one’s character and making positive changes to produce better short-term and long-term results. However, the best way to do these things seems different depending on the “expert” speaking at the time.
When I began studying leadership traits over a decade ago and practiced those same traits in my own life, I couldn’t help but notice that the best way to lead kept changing every year or so. New leadership styles emerged, ways to motivate a team changed, and skills that were once ignored became important areas to learn. In every area of life, these same “best way to do it” suggestions occurred, so if anyone was trying to become a great leader, it (at times) became confusing as to which advice to follow. My saving grace was making notes of common themes I found among leadership models and the leaders who practiced them. These timeless truths were unchanging and proved to work in all areas of life: Study, Learn, and Implement.
Study: Another trait that great leaders practice is studying new ways to enhance who they are and what they do. In this case, I’ll take the role of parenting. Parenting practices have consistently changed over the years and everyone has their own take on what works. However, do you know how to recognize a good parent (which also relates to leadership)? It’s the person who’s willing to study new parenting techniques to improve the parent-child relationship. Think about it: would you use the same parenting methods that you used on your 5 year old when he turns 15? No – you’d study new ones, talk to other parents, talk to your child differently, and adjust what you’ve studied to fit the new situation and relationship. While I’m using the topic of parenting, this relates to other areas of leadership as well. Studying new ways to encourage, guide, lead, and motivate means that you acknowledge that you have not mastered everything. Time changes things and great leaders are in turn with that. They constantly study new material.
Learn: Simply put, great leaders understand that learning is not a once and done thing, but continuous. You don’t figure out to guide people and then regurgitate that same method for the next 20 years. Instead great leaders take what they’ve learned, but constantly look for new ways to tweak what they’re doing. Let’s take running a meeting, for example. If you’ve learned how to run a successful meeting (and by successful, I mean have a meeting start and end on time), then it’s important to know that that is not the only thing that makes a meeting effective. Instead, build on top of that one triumph. Your meetings start and end on time? Great! Now learn how to run an engaging meeting where everyone contributes useful information AND try to have it start and end on time. This requires reading books, getting advice from other professionals, and testing out ways to engage your team differently (and failing at it a couple of times). Great leaders understand that there is always room for improvement and open themselves up to learning more.
Implement: Implementation can be the most fun part of leading and the scariest because it requires you to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new (knowing that you might fail at it). For instance, I am not the “icebreaker” type of person. Usually, when it comes to meetings with my team (and even my family), I dive right into the subject matter. But, one day I was challenged to start a team meeting differently. I was challenged to start off with an activity. For some people, this is fun and can lighten the mood. For me, this type of thing has always been seen as a waste of time, but I did it anyway. I started a team meeting off with an activity and I had to dedicate 10 minutes to it. Not only was it fun, but it got my group talking! I didn’t have to probe anyone for ideas. I didn’t have silent moments within the meeting, and I wasn’t the one doing all of the talking. The entire meeting was lively and invigorating (even during the tough topics). For you, an icebreaker challenge may not be the thing to do, but great leaders implement new strategies that they’ve learned. This is how they find out if those strategies really work or not. The ones that work become a nice addition to one’s leadership toolbox.
Regardless of your environment, incorporate the three strong qualities of leadership: Study. Learn. Implement. It will make you a better person and you will be sure to positively impact those around you.
Keep leading everyone!