You are a leader.
You just might not know it yet.
Too often, we hear “leader” and think of the politician running a country; the CEO piloting a Fortune 500 company; the activist spearheading a social movement; or the celebrity championing the latest trend. These are usually the leaders in the spotlight, getting all the attention.
Too often, we think of ourselves as merely “followers”—sometimes literally clicking FOLLOW.
But we—the rest of us—can be everyday leaders. We can lead every day from the quiet perch of grassroots on up.
WE, as everyday leaders, can ultimately have a powerful impact in any endeavor we choose—business, charity, politics, society, academics, hobbies, recreation, or simply living life to the fullest.
The following are seven ways you can cultivate your inner everyday leader, starting right now.
1. Identify your passion.
Everyday leadership begins with a passion and a mission.
Ask yourself, “What am I passionate about? How can I turn that passion into a mission?”
Every passion you have, from serious to fun and frivolous—gardening, building, exercising, starting a business, helping animals, teaching, reading, finding a cure, writing, politicking, healthy living, volunteering, shopping, inventing, learning new things, organizing, athletics, creating art, you name it—is the spark of a mission in which you can lead in some way to enrich your own life and the lives of others.
Once you identify your passion, seek out opportunities to become involved and engaged with like-minded folks. For every passion, there is a club, a team, an association, a local group, an online community, a classroom, a magazine or blog, or some other gathering place. And if there isn’t one, create one.
Everyday leaders are good listeners.
As much as we may like to believe it, we don’t know everything, even concerning those things about which we are most passionate. So train yourself to listen more than you speak.
Listen to experts and fellow enthusiasts, including those with whom you disagree. Absorb their perspectives, insights, and experiences.
Ask yourself, “How can I become a better everyday leader by listening more?”
From listening to others, we can garner gems of wisdom from both their successes and their failings.
3. You have a voice, so share it.
You have feelings, experiences, opinions, and a voice. And they all have value. So share them often.
Even as part of a group—a class, book club, church group, PTA, co-workers, a gathering of volunteers or citizens, carpool, sports league, an online forum, etc.—you can be an everyday leader by expressing your thoughts and ideas. Even far-out-of-the-box input from you is better than silence.
Ask yourself, “What do I think about this topic that I can share with others?”
Remember though that using your voice as an everyday leader comes with a responsibility. Merely calling other people ugly names, chanting vile slogans, using your voice to silence the voice of others, and only criticizing without offering new ideas or strategies for moving forward is not leadership of any kind, be it in a protest or a monthly meeting of fellow philatelists.
When sharing your opinion—in-person or via social media—be clear, be concise, and be constructive. That is the best way to be heard.
4. Pursue humility.
We all know leaders whom we would primarily describe as arrogant, entitled, and controlling. But a leader—no matter how celebrated—who isn’t at least on the pathway toward humility is something far less than great.
Ask yourself, “How can I pursue a more humble pathway?”
An everyday leader is one who sees herself or himself as an everyday person whose experiences and voice matter equally as much as the next person’s; as someone who is no better or no less than their neighbor.
Humility is what allows an everyday leader to approach their passion and mission—regardless of if that endeavor is raising heirloom tomatoes, running for town council, or running a marathon—from a place of community and in the spirit of making life happier for everyone.
5. Contribute something new to the discussion.
An important part of authentic leadership means contributing something new to the discussion at hand.
For just about any topic or endeavor you can think of there is a formula that can be copied and followed: formulaic books and movies with predictable plots; formulaic blueprints for architecture and housing developments that offer little originality; formulaic agendas for meetings that leave little room for innovation; spoken and unspoken rules for staying bound and gagged to “how it’s always been done.”
However, everyday leaders often break the rules, skirt around tradition, and super-charge innovation by contributing something new to the collective discussion. This doesn’t mean you have to shock and awe, or spew something controversial. It means sharing something fresh to further a conversation. Even a sincere whisper can have a meaningful impact!
Ask yourself, “What is something new and original I can contribute to the discussion?”
For you, this could mean suggesting a new way of collecting rainwater or composting to other avid gardeners; explaining your unique twist on pitching a softball to teammates; a fun idea for getting attention for your local charity; an original cocktail recipe you accidentally invented over the weekend; outlining multiple approaches your students can take to complete a project; your opinion on how to improve downtown; or your thoughts on what an author meant in a particular book excerpt.
6. Turn failure into muscle.
Accept this fact: You are going to fail, many times. That’s nonnegotiable. Period. Exclamation point. But it’s not the end of the story, it’s the beginning!
Ask yourself, “How many times have I not done something because I was afraid of failing? Or, how many times did I give up on something because I originally failed at doing it?”
The strength of an everyday leader is not built on success alone. The majority of an everyday leader’s success is forged by how many times they failed and picked themselves up, and then kept moving forward. Failure is an everyday leader’s protein.
Offer gratitude for each failure and pull lessons from the experience. Use failure to make yourself stronger and then go off in pursuit of other triumphs.
This one is simple: An everyday leader knows without a doubt the smile that changed the world is theirs.
Your smile is the most powerful tool you have for leading yourself and others to a better, happier place every day.