Special guest-post by Nathan Lawrence, President of Thunder Bay’s SHIFT Network
More often than not, our society spends way too much of its time developing managers to fill the roles within the standard hierarchical organizational structure. The everyday understanding of a leader is that they lead…regardless of how successful they might be at it. You’re in charge of supervising people, so you must be a leader. But perhaps this is the backwards and upside down way of looking at how organizations should define individuals as leaders. Most of today’s leaders are in fact managers. If all we do is focus on the development of fitting a defined management role, we are completely missing out on the opportunity that comes with engaging and developing a leadership mentality within our organizations. Don’t get me wrong, a significant number of those individuals may have already broken the manager mold and develop into outstanding leaders that do more than just manage.
Realizing that leadership is less about the job title or position and that it is all about action(s) is step one. Most of us, whether we realize it or not, are leaders in some capacity in our daily lives. You could be a parent, a coach of a sports team, or simply have done something today that changed the way someone else thinks about the world. It doesn’t take a big action to be a leader, and that’s exactly the point….it simply takes action in a purposeful and ethical way to stand out as a leader. Action with purpose…a trait of any true leader. Someone that is not afraid to lead by example is someone that gets in there alongside their team to achieve their common goal(s), whatever they may be. They roll up their sleeves and they make a difference.
One of my favorite quotes (author unknown) “The only real measure of your value is the tangible contributions you make on a daily basis. No matter what you’ve done or accomplished in the past, you’re never too good to roll up your sleeves, get dirty and do the grunt work. No job is ever to menial, no task ever too unskilled or boring”
Since coming across this quote a few years ago, it has become a guide for defining what a leader really is to me. They are someone that does not take for granted their successes from yesterday. They measure themselves by the daily impact they have on those around them. And they are not afraid to get in there and do any of the work when the circumstances warrant.
The thing is, that most people don’t take the time to recognize or encourage those signs of leadership. Running a successful organization does not automatically place you at the top of the “world’s most successful leaders” list. There are countless examples of successful leaders in the world that do not run organizations, multinational corporations or countries. For individuals that strive to be great leaders, the most important thing to do is to remember that leadership is not about getting the corner office, the parking space, the cozy desk job. Leadership is about purposeful action…because it is the actions that get the job done. It’s the actions that prove to your team that you are on their side and that you are there to make a difference in a meaningful way.