Everyday Leadership

By Cheryl Viola, Executive Director, MBA, October 18, 2021

When we think of leadership, we often think of a CEO or someone who has a prominent position or community leader.  We think leaders are individuals that accomplish great things and change the world. Society has stereotyped leadership into someone who does something extraordinary, and that becoming a leader is not attainable to the average person. We have fallen into the trap of underestimating our value and achievements.

According to an article in Psychology Today, Leadership is the process of helping move a collective toward a goal or outcome. This means that regular people lead every day. I watched a YouTube video by Drew Dudley who shares a story about a college freshman that was unsure if she was making the right decision. She sees Drew come out of the Student Union building wearing the goofiest hat she had ever seen. He is walking down the line of people at registration handing out lollipops. Drew stops and looks at the freshman in the eye and then turns to the man behind her and says “You need to give the beautiful woman beside you this lollipop”. This one gesture changed the world for the freshman. A few years later, the woman saw Drew and shared with him how he inspired her to stay at college.

Seemingly small acts or words have the greatest impact on another’s life. How many of us have had the lollipop moment when someone did or said something that made your life fundamentally better? Have you told that person how they made an impact on you? We celebrate birthdays, and yet we let people who have made our lives better walk around without knowing it.

Each and every one of you has been the catalyst that has made another’s life better. It was something, you said or did. I asked a sweet friend whom I met 10 years ago what it was about me that inspired her. She said that through all the chaos and turmoil in my life (I was a single parent, attending graduate school, working full time, and volunteering at my church) that I stayed the course. She explained that I listened to others, did not criticize, and was always honest and fair. It was humbling to listen to her and to get a glimpse of what she saw through her eyes. We do not realize the influence we have on others.

Marianne Williamson said, “Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. [It] is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light and not the darkness that frightens us.” My call to action today is that we need to get over our fear of how extraordinarily powerful we can be in each other’s lives. 

We need to redefine leadership as being about lollipop moments. What seemingly small, insignificant thing that you did today, inspired another?  Do we take the time to tell someone who inspired us?  As long as society makes about changing the world, we fail to recognize that the ‘world’ is today. It is the here and now, the moments we live in. Leadership is about today! There are people all around you whom you have the opportunity to inspire right now.

I have always thought that icicles on an irrigation watering system, are beautiful. How often do we pass something of beauty without stopping to appreciate simplicity?

When we fail to take the time to tell someone how they motivated or inspired us we are missing a great opportunity for another person to realize their value and how they can impact the world.

Slow down and enjoy the simple things, I challenge you to tell someone today how they motivated or inspired you in a seemingly small way – I guarantee they had no idea they had an impact on your day.

Everyday Leadership Traits:

1.        Adaptability

Adaptability is being able to adapt quickly to changing situations. Every day leaders think outside of the box, embrace new ideas, and take on challenges seeing them as growth opportunities.

2.        Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand and manage your own emotions as well as recognizing the emotions in others and having the ability to influence them.  This includes using empathy to understand the concerns of others.

3.        Vision

Vision is the ability to see the big picture and sift through the day-to-day minutia, understanding that each role is important and is valuable.

4.        Participation

Participation is more than just showing up on time, it is being present in the conversation, taking initiative, and following through on commitments.

5.        Coaching ability.

 A dictator, bosses people, telling others what to do and watching you do it. A coach stands beside you, shows you what to do, inspires, encourages, and pitches in to help. There is no one-size-fits-all formula when motivating team members and peers. Coaching is individual and tailored to each person and need.

Too often we devalue the things we do every day. We don’t allow ourselves to take credit for the moments when we are a leader. Very few people thank others for the small life-changing things. If you haven’t handed out your lollipop, told someone who influenced you, then take the time now to tell them. Help them realize that they are leaders and what they did to inspire you. This small act will help inspire them to continue to move forward with kindness and change more lives for the better. When you influence someone else’s life positively you are a leader!