Several months ago, I decided to join Toastmasters so that I could improve my public speaking skills and build connections with people in my local community. This blog is based on a speech I gave about leadership. As it turns out, my leadership style is a coaching style and I am happy to say that is right in line with my profession.
For a long time, the study and practice of effective leadership was a passion of mine. I wrote and published a book on employee engagement called Engaged for Growth and I worked with leaders to show them how to create an engaged culture. There are many ways to accomplish that, but one of the key elements in engaging employees is giving them the opportunity to stretch their capabilities and make meaningful and appreciated contributions at work. The coaching style of leadership is an excellent way to facilitate that, but you don’t have to be a people manager to be a leader. In fact, you don’t even have to be employed.
Whenever you embark on a journey to explore something new, you are a leader.
Some of the most critical qualities of great leadership are qualities that don’t need to be cultivated by an employer. Every time you make a decision to move forward and stay the course, you are a leader. Every time you step away from the expectations of others and do what feels right inside, you are a leader. Every time your actions inspire someone to do something similar, you are a leader. Whenever you embark on a journey to explore something new, you are a leader. Whenever you make a decision to do the right thing, even in the face of criticism, you are a leader. Whenever you provide encouragement to another person or show someone how to do something, you are a leader.
Most of us are leaders and don’t even know it. In 1971, my mother decided to break away from the societal expectation that she remain a housewife for the rest of her life. She only had a grade 10 education so she wrote her GED exam and then entered university. She was 41 years of age and all of her classmates were just 18 years old. She felt intimidated and out of place, but she persevered. She had no defined career goal, only an educational goal and once she discovered what she liked, she decided to become a French teacher. She graduated with honours and got 2 university degrees. Many of my earliest memories of my mother are of her studying.
My mother faced a lot of criticism for not staying home to take care of her family. My father supported her decision, though, and that meant everything. Fast forward about fifteen years later, I was standing at the bus stop outside the university I attended and saw my former neighbour beside me. She was likely in her 50’s at that time. She told me that she decided to go back to school and that my mother had inspired her. My mother had no idea her decision to go to school and become a teacher had impacted anyone outside of her own family. My mother unwittingly encouraged many women in our neighbourhood to go out and educate themselves and get jobs that allowed them to have some financial freedom and independence. She unwittingly encouraged them to dream and reach for more. My mother was, and remains a great leader.
I believe exemplary leadership skills, whatever your style, are not exclusive to only a few people. We all have the ability to lead change, rally the support of others, make sound decisions, and achieve great results.
All you need to do is listen to your inner voice. Some of us hear that voice more clearly than others. Some of us let negative emotions and self-doubt block our path. Regular meditation allows you to hear your inner guidance system very clearly. That is the place where inspiration is born. That is the place to look for all of your decisions. Any decision that feels good is inspired and comes from that place.
Never be afraid to explore the fullness of who you are. Never doubt your ability to influence the decisions of others. Never settle for a life of mediocrity. That is not the life you were meant to live. Life is all about expansion. The universe is a constantly expanding universe and you are a natural part of it. Even the tiniest contribution you make to expanding your own life has a ripple effect on the entire planet. Be the drop that starts the ripple. Embrace the leader within you.