You don’t have to be the CEO, a C-Level executive, or run a business unit to be a leader. Take for example Kevin Nussbaum. A military veteran who has worked his way into the corporate world, now manning his post as an IT professional at a mid size company. He saw a culture that needed help and a people that needed excitement. That’s when a 21-day, 10,000 step challenge was born. The excitement and health benefits this challenge provided was incredible (the group collectively walked a ¼ of the way around the earth!) Who knew a small idea like this could create such a great impact. Kevin didn’t need permission to lead. He chose to lead.
See, the corporate leadership system is broken. Employees are frustrated by; layer upon layer of management that communicate poorly, lack a business purpose, and have a larger concern for the almighty dollar than the people that produce it. These problems and challenges aren’t new, but the insurgence of the Millennial and Gen Z workforce has created an urgency for change. In some ways it feels as though professionals want big changes to occur, but don’t know where to start. I believe it starts with this idea of not needing permission to lead, but choosing to lead.
Truth be told, what this world needs now more than ever is:
More Leaders, Not Less.
It needs people who lead from the front lines by their actions, that don’t wait for their boss to give them permission to lead. We all have permission to lead because no one has to give it to us. Here are some things you can do immediately to begin your pursuit of leading today:
I feel like a broken record but leadership is simple. John Adams famously said “If your actions inspire people to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more you are a leader." Leadership is not a title because, people follow people, not titles. Once you understand this and take it to heart you won’t care about what’s on the front of your business card or what your title says on your LinkedIn Profile, you will care about impacting other people in a positive way. There are million ways to go about doing this and no role or financial position can dictate your ability to make this a reality.
These are your attitude, effort and enthusiasm. When you wake up in the morning these are the three things you can control and often they dictate how your day is going to go and the impact you are going to make. No matter what level in an organization your current role is these are the things that spread to other people.
Business and life moves fast. Months fly by like weeks, quarters happen like months and years pass by before we even know it. Urgency is a mindset, it isn’t waiting for someone else to tell you what to do or waiting for direction. It’s being ready to go the minute you walk in the door. Urgency is a habit that every professional can develop, maintain, and hold others accountable too.
Getting small acts of leadership done every single day. This could be helping a coworker, starting a 10,000 step challenge, formulating a purpose statement, mentoring a new employee, or controlling your controllables. In a lot of ways it doesn’t matter how big the wins are, what matters is your ability to stack acts of leadership on top of each other, day in and day out. If you do this and you focus on the process, they add up to big wins and big influence.
The most powerful example we have is our actions. Just like little kids watch everything their parents do, people in the professional world observe their leaders. How you act, what you say, communicate via text, or share on social media are all examples of things people observe. These observations create personal perception, and it’s this perception that is the foundation for our ability to influence others.
In a previous episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, Dee Ann Turner taught me a lot about how critical the purpose of Chick-fil-A’s business was and is to its success. Their purpose has remained the same for 40 years, “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.” People are more fulfilled, engaged, and perform better at work when there is a strong business purpose. You might not be in a position to create or change the purpose of your organization, but you can influence upper management to establish one or better communicate it. If you lead a small team who doesn’t have a purpose, make having one a priority.
You don’t need permission to lead, instead, you have the power to choose to lead. So carry leadership over and pass it on to others. Remember we need more leaders, not less.
John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College.