When you hear the term leader, does the default setting in your mind go to same place that mine does? Many larger-than-life figures in history, such as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, or more recently, Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs are often at the center of the conversation when considering leadership. Our society and media outlets have contributed to these patterns by showcasing leadership as this illustrious concept reserved for a very select few. In order to be a leader, in the eyes of many, you must have a number of initials behind your name in an email signature, a title with director or officer attached to it, or sitting around a large table making high stakes decisions. I’m sure you have had similar thoughts at some point in your life; at least in some capacity. While these three examples are often inclusive of leadership, there is so much more in the every day actions and interactions. When I give leadership a little more consideration, my mind opens up to so many leaders that I experience each day.
I define a leader as anyone who influences others and motivates them to be better. When working from that definition, I see countless acts of leadership from staff members (and students) at my school. I have seen leadership in collaboration meetings where teachers offer suggestions/support to their partners. Leadership has occurred when paraprofessionals discover a procedure that is more efficient and implement it to better serve others. Students have demonstrated leadership by holding classmates accountable for doing the right thing, even when adults are not watching. You may be asking yourself, what point are you trying to make here? The fact of the matter is that we have common people exhibiting greatness hundreds of times per day within schools across the country. However, how often is this type of leadership acknowledged? My assumption is this occurs an extremely small percentage of the time. Why? It goes back to what I stated earlier about so many people seeing leadership as larger-than-life acts that change the world. I don't want to downplay high stakes decisions or obvious/amazing acts of leadership; however, if the only time we are acknowledging leadership is when these things occur, we are going to be doing a lot of sitting around. It is my firm belief that small, intentional acts of everyday leadership consistently committed over a span of time can change the world.
It is important to realize that the way we show up for kids and each other matters. We put out vibrational energy with every interaction we have. That vibe is contagious and spreads more rapidly than the current flu bug. Our vibe can be life-giving or soul-sucking. When a strong vibe inspires others to be more and do more, then leadership has occurred. Consider this, as you think about past and future interactions with others. You are a leader and we need you.