A few years ago, while visiting friends in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, I attended a Toastmasters meeting. I had heard about Toastmaster, but that was about it. However, my girlfriend was scheduled to give a speech, and she invited me along. The lead toastmaster began the session with the following quotation by John Quincy Adams for us to consider:“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader”. After the meeting, my girlfriend and I were still thinking and talking about Adams’ words.
I must say, I rather like his definition of leadership. You see, it is too easy for us to think of only those who occupy rarefied, administrative or managerial positions as leaders–those whose job descriptions include formal leadership responsibilities and/or occupy the coveted corner office spot. I myself have been guilty of this misconception. In fact, a few years aback while conducting a collaborative research project with colleagues who both have formal leadership titles, I struggled to include myself in that category. Who me? A leader? No way!
Now, I think: “Yes, way!” (As my 7 year-old daughter would say).
Whether we choose to accept it or not, as we go about the business of our daily lives we have the capacity to influence others both in positive and negative ways. It doesn’t take much. For instance, as I spent the week in Tortola visiting with my dear friend, I was once again humbled by her vivacity and positive outlook even as she deals with significant life challenges. I thought to myself,” Wow, I can learn from this.” Even without her knowledge, she was inspiring me to “do more, and become more.”
If we take this definition to heart, I cannot help but think that it would compel us to live more intentional lives knowing that our actions carry with them the power to lead others in paths of greatness.
A few weeks after attending this event, I sent a message to a friend to let her know the great influence she had on my life. We both attended the same church when I was a child, and I observed her from a distance. She was and still is a beautiful woman who carried herself with poise. More than that, she was pleasant and engaging! I would say now, totally devoid of the kind of foolish pretentiousness that some attractive people carry. I really admired that! She was surprised when I wrote her and confessed that she had no idea I thought of her this way. And yet as a young girl growing up without my mother’s presence, it was so important for me to have a role model in her and to be able to think and dream that when I grew up, I could be someone just like her.
Thank you Toastmasters’ group of Tortola for reminding me that we each have the capacity to be leaders within our spheres of influence!
I challenge you today, to LEAD ON in your own neck of the woods.
* A slightly different version of this post first appeared on my sister site http://www.facebook.com/nexeconsulting