Leadership is a term that is now experiencing a profound revival. It is a global conversation with a diverse audience, extending far beyond the walls of the C-suite and corporate America. Leadership is now awake; it’s a movement with a pulse. It can no longer be defined by, or confined to hierarchal positions, formal roles or job-related functions. The potential of leadership was limited and weakened, because it was viewed as a right for some, rather than a responsibility for us all. Leadership should arise from a personal sense of duty or responsibility. When leadership is viewed through this lens, we become astute and expectant of leadership opportunities. Leadership is an expression of stewardship. Stewardship is defined as responsible oversight. It involves protecting and preserving something or someone cared for. Therein lies the critical component of effective leadership – caring enough about someone or something to accept responsibility. So let me ask you: who or what do you care enough about to move beyond self-interest to affect change? Many historical leaders were driven by this sense of duty and personal obligation. They were people who abandoned comfort and consequence to bring change. Often, we assume leadership is more about managing people, rather than caring for them. I believe we must care first, manage second, or at the very least care for the people we manage. People are far easier to manage when they know we care.
Furthermore, viewing leadership as a responsibility provides an opportunity or obligation to act independently and make decisions in the best interest of others. Imagine how different our world would be if this were our code of conduct. It would change every interaction, and positively affect every outcome. Instead of masses of people mindlessly motivated by selfish gain, we would be competing to use our resources to improve the lives of others. Our decisions would be void of personal bias and self-serving agendas, thus altering the way we live. Many of us believe that we can’t make a difference when acting alone. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It takes one point to win a game, one match to start a fire, and one second to win a race. So instead of waiting to be given an opportunity to lead, why not accept the responsibility of leadership? This sense of responsibility is like a magnifying glass that enables us to see all of the the endless possibilities available to us when we choose to lead.
As a responsibility, leadership encompasses a personal commitment to develop one’s leadership effectiveness. Effective leaders study themselves, asking hard questions that challenge current behavior and performance. They do not make excuses for emotional blow-ups, poor behavior, and substandard outcomes. When looking for someone to blame, they look in the mirror first. Successful leaders understand the value of self knowledge and self development. Historically, leadership development has been a task reserved for employers, with little to no responsibility being assumed by those who desire to become effective leaders. Because leadership development has been reserved for a select few, it has resulted in countless individuals having undeveloped and underdeveloped leadership potential. Leadership is not a job-related skill set, but a life-related one. Stop waiting and start working to develop your unique leadership capability. Leadership development doesn’t have to take place in an academic or classroom setting. Personal and professional development often come disguised as growth opportunities. It has long been said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Are you ready?