Leadership is the ability to get people to do what they don’t want to do and like it.
– Harry Truman
People traditionally think of leadership as an authority figure telling everyone under them what to do. I believe it’s much larger than that. John Maxwell was the first person I heard define leadership as merely influence. I heard Mark Sanborn say it’s positive influence. I like Truman’s definition above.
Whichever you prefer, notice that most definitions don’t specify a direction. Meaning leadership doesn’t only flow downhill. You can influence in any direction—you can lead in any direction. Here are four questions to see if you’re radiating leadership in all directions:
- Are you leading those below you? This is the most obvious direction, but some people still aren’t stepping up to the line. Just because you have an official title or command the respect of a group doesn’t mean you’re truly leading them to the best of your ability. Are you being intentional? Select a destination, assess the situation, get to know your people, and start moving them forward.
- Are you leading those around you? Two things generally stop us from leading our peers. First, unhealthy competition inhibits us from helping others. Let it go. Trust me, helping others is the best way to help yourself. Second, an unhealthy self-image prevents us from thinking we have anything worthwhile to share. Get over it; by holding back you’re cheating those around you.
- Are you leading those above you? Complaining about your boss is easy—and ubiquitous. However, how many people take responsibility for and choose to lead their boss? While most are grumbling and whining, leaders are leading. It takes finesse for sure, but you can absolutely influence your boss. Next time you get frustrated, think about what motivates, inspires, or influences your boss—then leverage it to get things done.
- Are you leading yourself? This is the first direction you should lead. Leading yourself affects every other direction you try to lead in. So be intentional about disciplining, motivating, and taking care of yourself.
What percentage of your time do you devote to leading in each of these directions?