On Monday February 2nd, as I was scanning my daily news source, Google News, I noticed this article from ESPN:
“Despite coming off a historic season and being named the youngest unanimous MVP in the history of major league baseball, Bryce Harper still doesn't see himself as one of the leaders of the Washington Nationals. "I don't think I'm a leader," said Harper, who addressed media in the Space Coast Stadium dugout on Monday morning. "I think I'm more just a guy playing the game.””
Unfortunately, this “I’m not a leader” sentiment is prevalent among many people, especially women, in our world today. Every time I hear an individual utter these words, I feel frustrated and disappointed. And depending on the person, my response is “Of course you are a leader, if nothing else you are the leader of your own life aren’t you?” This question usually brings nervous chuckles and a response of “Well yes but…” with a list of reasons of why they don’t consider that being true leadership. My favorite ones are “I don’t manage people”, “I don’t run a country”, “I don’t work”, “I am just a lower level employee” or “I am too young or too old” and the list goes on and on. Well to all of these, I say to heck with your B.S., that is your Belief System, that tricks you into thinking you are anything less than a leader. However, I can’t really blame you for thinking these thoughts because when you Google top leaders in history you get names like Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Ghandi. Seeing how the world sees leaders, it’s no wonder you don’t consider yourself a leader. Society and culture has us programmed to believe that you have to run a company or country, drive a social change or provide selfless acts to the world to be considered a leader. However, upon researching the leadership qualities of each of these individuals, I discovered three common behaviors which each of us could embrace and demonstrate in our personal and professional lives.
1. Be a pioneer of change This is probably one of the biggest reasons most people are not leaders because change is something most of us intensely dislike. We like to stay in our comfort zone and not “rock the boat” or “muddy the waters.” Leaders love change and consistently look for ways to make things better or envision doing things differently. Steve Jobs is best known as an innovator. He envisioned that one day our phones could be a source of entertainment and not simply a device for communicating-and that certainly pioneered change for everyone in this world. Martin Luther King’s passion to make the United States a place of equal opportunity pioneered change in social and business practices. Mother Teresa wanted to change how the underprivileged were cared for and she desired to make everyone, regardless of circumstance, feel cared for feel loved. You don’t have to lead some huge movement or create the newest tech product to be a pioneer of change. What about recommending a change to a process at work that has been around for ages and has no apparent value to the company? Or what about suggesting to your family that you change to eating breakfast and dinner together with no phones or television so that you can truly engage with one another? Change does not have to be huge, it simply needs to create a new and better way of being for all interested parties. Leaders consistently look for ways to pioneer change personally and professionally.
2. Have faith in yourself Each of the leaders mentioned took grave risks in their actions. Taking risks requires that you have faith in yourself. You must be self-aware which means that you understand and appreciate your talents as well as your so-called weaknesses. It is critical to trust and believe that no matter the outcome that you give your absolute best and that something good will come of your actions. Think about Ghandi sitting in peaceful protest. He had faith that even if he died, his actions would deliver something positive for someone. The same can be said of Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa. Let’s be honest, having faith is very scary and at times poor outcomes rear their ugly heads to try to trick us into believing we can’t achieve something. However, leaders practice faith in every action and decision, big and small. Taking that first job, making a decision to go to college, starting a family, writing a book, performing on stage, learning to drive, or even becoming a parent required faith in yourself whether you recognized it or not. Leaders use faith in themselves to takes risks and accomplish amazing things at home and at work.
3. Focus on something bigger than yourself When listening to many people give their view of Millennials, I frequently hear “They are the “me” generation and don’t care about anyone but themselves.” Unfortunately, there are days when I feel like we are all stuck in the “me” generation, solely focused on ourselves and our own needs. Leaders focus on something bigger than themselves, meaning they are always looking for the good of the many instead of the good of one individual. When Steven Jobs came up with the idea of the iPod, he was not trying to create a play toy for himself, he intended to revolutionize personal entertainment for the globe. Martin Luther King did not fight for civil rights for himself alone, he did it for the entire African American population. Although Nelson Mandela was fighting for his freedom from prison, he was really fighting for imprisonment of lower class South Africans in their everyday lives. And Mother Teresa, she was clearly focused on feeding the masses. You too can focus (and probably do at times) focus on something bigger than you. When you are doing something on behalf of your children, spouse, partner, company, parents, or friends ask yourself this question, “Why am I doing this?” If the answer is to make myself look good or to avoid punishment for myself, then consider yourself part of the me generation. If the answer is to use your talents for the good of another person(s) or organization, then you are a leader. It’s as simple as that! Leaders focus on the bigger picture and the good of the many.
Next time you hear yourself or someone else saying, I’m not a leader, think again. Pioneer change, have faith in yourself and focus on something bigger than you and you are on the right path to become an outstanding leader.
LINK: ESPN Nationals League MVP, Bryce Harper, Says He's Not a Leader