By Gina Folk
For many years, leadership has been seen by most people as a role or a title in a business, organization or team. I believe the time has come for leadership to be redefined. Leadership is not controlling or micromanaging people. Being a leader is not a title held only by the smartest and the fittest. Sadly most people, especially women, don't see themselves as leaders simply because they don't manage a company, organization or teams of people. However, those same people are parents, partners, volunteers, family members, and friends. All of those roles have a leadership component to them one way or another.
Regardless of age, gender, race, culture, socio-economic status, education level or occupation, I believe each and every person in the world has leadership abilities. Why? Because if nothing else, each of us is the leader of our own life.
"I think leadership is just about being myself. It's just knowing and doing what I am good at and always doing my best. Being a good example for other people."
What does it take to lead with your best self and empower others to do the same? First it starts with you. You can't give what you don't have, so here are 3 keys to being your best self and that redefined leader.
1. Know thyself : This is not a philosophical exercise; it is a very tangible activity that is simple to do if you are open and willing. Find your skills and talents by paying attention to those actions, behaviors and decisions that give you energy and peace at the same time. This is hard to describe on paper, but I know when I am doing something that is fully me because I get that "in the zone" feeling which is usually accompanied with a happy and warm feeling of satisfaction. You know that feeling many of us get when we are enjoying a favorite vice like a nice cocktail, glass of wine, decadent dessert or scrumptious gourmet meal? Of course, the opposite is also true: when I am out of sorts, frustrated, depressed, angry, stressed or indifferent, then I know it's time to identify what is causing the discomfort and to correct the issue immediately.
2. Live intentionally : Have a vision for your life and any endeavor you undertake. Knowing where you want to go is just as important as knowing who you are. Life can either happen to us or we can make life happen. Intentional living is about knowing you have a choice in every decision and action that you make in your life, even when it does not feel like it. Being your best self requires you to take responsibility and be accountable for your actions and reactions with other people, including yourself. Take care of yourself first or else the other people in your life - your family, friends, coworkers and colleagues -- will suffer. The airlines are trying to teach us this lesson when they tell us to give ourselves oxygen before we give it to the children in the event of an emergency. When you live your life intentionally, you know that you are the model for everyone else in your life. Leaders have a direction in life and fulfill it.
3. Be Relatable: Leadership requires relating with other people and engaging with them on some familiar level. And that starts right at home with you. Appreciate who you are; your strengths, weaknesses -- even your perceived faults -- as they all are a part of you and the progress that you make each day. Regardless of your circumstance or background, you are special and have unique talents. Give yourself credit for the things you are good at in life both personally and professionally and embrace them. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others, because you have your own set of individual skills that stand alone and are magically unique. More importantly, don't be too hard on yourself. It is important to set your goals high but not to be so attached to the outcome that you're devastated if you don't achieve them. There is no such thing as failure when you're proud of who you are at the end of the day. Failure is simply a feedback mechanism that tells you to act differently the next time. The more comfortable you become with your own strengths and weaknesses, the more relatable you'll be to others who want to follow you.
Leadership is in each of us! Focus on being true to yourself and optimizing your natural abilities and, you'll likely have the confidence and the foundation to help your peers lead as well. Be the leader you want to see in the world by demonstrating your best life to those around you. It starts with you!
Gina Folk is an award-winning author as well as a dynamic and inspirational leader of people, process, and change. She holds an MBA from Belmont University, a BS in psychology and business from Vanderbilt University, is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, Entrepreneur.com and Success.com contributor. For more than twenty years, Gina has helped organizations and individuals achieve outstanding performance results using practical strategies that drive success. Her book, People Leadership: 30 Strategies to Ensure Your Team's Success was recently named winner of the 2015 National Indie Excellence Awards, and finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards. A native Nashvillian, she now lives in Clearwater, FL. Visit Gina at www.peopleleadership.com.