Just this morning, I received a message from a parent of a teenager that said, “I’m not necessarily a leader, but I wanted you to know that your podcast ‘Curiosity killed the excuses’ really helped me with how I view my teenager.”
I loved hearing the story of how this person was moved and challenged to dig into the heart and mind of their teenager, but it also bothered me that she didn’t see herself as a leader. I do share about business leadership quite often, but I wanted to encourage those of you who do not have a position or title to see yourself differently. So the question I want to dig into for those of you reading this is: Who is a Leader?
Three pictures of a leader:
Power Cords – these people are influencers. They can take a low battery on your phone and bring up the charge. People get happier or feel heard, or challenged in a good way when these people are around. This is one way that I believe the younger generation of teenagers are getting it right. They don’t often use the word leader, but they quite often can point to influencers. If you’re the mom of a teenager, I’m sure you’re quite aware of the YouTube star or the video game player that’s an influencer online.
You might be the one who can make babies and kids smile and feel secure – you’re a leader. Or listen and encourage seniors at your apartment complex – you’re a leader. Or you’re the teacher who kids come to when life has gone to crap for them. I could mention a million more examples, but don’t sell yourself short, thermostats.
Planted flags – think Joan of Arc. She said, “I will lead the men over the wall.” A general said to her, “Not a man will follow you”. She kicked back to him, “I won’t be looking back to see if they’re following me.” These are leaders by their convictions. At times these people can really piss you off, because of how stubbornly convinced they are. But these people revolutionize power structures. Think Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses. Think Martin Luther King, Jr. marching arm in arm from Selma to Montgomery across that bridge knowing what awaited on the other side. Conviction may leave you alone and beaten at times, but these people start with leading themselves well and eventually the world follows.
You might be the one who takes on the prison or court system that so unfairly treats people at times. You might be the one who is the ethical salesman in a shady business.
Porch Swings – these are the people who know everybody and they do a tremendous job of connecting the right people together. Porch swings were the place that people gathered to just talk about life and the neighborhood gathered there. You hear these folks saying stuff like “Bob here is from Charleston – I think you spent some time there too, Tracy, right?” These people feel like Cracker Barrel in human form. Bill Clinton was a master at this and so brilliant at remembering peoples’ names and what they did and fun facts about folks. That’s what made him a master politician.
I think some leaders in “leadership positions” possess these qualities. But just because you don’t have a position, doesn’t mean you can’t be a Power Cord, Planted Flag, or Porch Swing. In fact, when I’m looking for leaders even in our business, I’m looking for someone who is being this well before they have a position. A position won’t make them this, but if this is who they are, the position is an opportunity to influence more people with WHO THEY ARE.
The question is: Who is a leader? My question to you is: Who are you? I think you’re more than you realize at the moment. Be who you are!
TJ Reid wants to be a bright spot in a leader, team, or organization’s busy day. His “getting your hands dirty” insights paired with a natural knack for encouragement will transform mindsets, processes, and the development of leaders in your organization.
TJ created Vitamin Lead, a leadership speaking and consulting business in 2019. Part of Vitamin Lead is a podcast that is listened to in over 25 countries and 300 cities around the world as he interviews leaders from around the world.
He has been an Assistant Vice President at a top 10 online university, leading call center and customer service teams. TJ has also been a teacher and non-profit leader in the past.
He currently resides in Virginia Beach with his wife and 3 year old daughter.