Becoming an inspirational leader

When we talk about ‘leadership’ we often confine our thinking to the workplace, or philanthropic boards, or structured team-based activities like clubs, sport, or community groups.

I believe it is useful to broaden our definition of leadership to cover all areas of our lives—personal and professional. After all, isn’t it those closest to us that really touch our lives?

When I deliver training on how to be an exceptional leader, I always ask the participants to think about who has been the most inspirational leader in their lives. Sure, we get Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Princess Diana and others you would expect, but more often than not it is the primary school teachers, aunties, big brothers and other close friends and family who have had the greatest impact.

One woman in a recent workshop had a revelation that the most inspirational leader she knew was her grandmother. She found that acknowledging the impact her grandmother had on her life was a real breakthrough in terms of how she saw her grandmother.

When we broaden our definition of leadership it has at least two positive consequences. The first is that it provides an opportunity for us to express our gratitude to those special individuals in our lives. This is an easy way to deliver joy to someone we care about.

The second is that it creates space for us to ‘step up’ in our own lives and become more conscious of the opportunities to inspire that we have on a daily, or even a moment-to-moment basis. When you know the way you respond to your child, or your partner, or your colleague or friend can really have impact, the choices you make in that response become a whole lot more important and meaningful.

When you choose to really be present with others, to listen deeply and support them, to give of your unique talents, strengths and skills, you often have a lasting impact on that individual. And if you are feeling a bit off kilter with your sense of life balance, becoming an inspirational leader can certainly help you get back on track.

How do you define leadership in your life?

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