Last week I had the opportunity to speak with over 100 high school students at a leadership workshop for a local Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America chapter and share with them my beliefs on leadership.
What is leadership?
Why is leadership important?
How can I be a better leader?
I don’t believe leadership is telling other people what to do. Rather, I believe leadership is living a life worth following. People often confuse leadership and management, which many times turns into manipulation.
Leadership is being a lighthouse that others look to for direction and guidance and helping others discover the greatness they already have within themselves.
I believe each of us has the power to write our own story.
This doesn’t mean we have the power to select a destination in our life, such as being President of the United States or being a millionaire who lives in a mansion in Malibu. Those things are possible and they may or may not happen. But writing our own story is choosing how to respond to everything, good and bad, we experience in life. If we don’t take the pen in our hand to write our own story, then we allow circumstances and other people to narrate our story by reacting to outside forces. We are like a pinball being knocked around with little control over our story because we react, rather than respond, to events and people in our lives.
When we seize the power to write our own story, we understand we can use all of our life experiences to respond to anything life throws at us and seek to be the person we were created to be. This happens through an inside-out process.
I believe we each have an external story of how the world sees us and an internal story of how we see ourselves and our role in the world.
Many of us write our external story under a pen name. We try to change our appearance and how people perceive us based on external circumstances...clothes, status, money, trophies...and the list goes on. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of those external things. But they mean absolutely nothing without a healthy internal story. Many of us search to find our identity and our worth in our external story. This is the way I lived my life for a long time. But that is a lie. We may be able to plagiarize our external story but we can’t plagiarize our internal story.
So, our focus needs to be on writing our story from the inside-out. Each of us was created with a unique and valuable gift. This gift is not simply for self-expression, but rather for self-donation. Writing our own story is about finding the greatness we have inside and then giving it away to the rest of the world through the relationships and connections we create.
I believe that not only CAN everyone be a leader, but I believe everyone IS a leader.
No matter where we live or who we are, there is ultimately someone we will influence by the life we live. The question is will it be a positive influence or a negative influence? John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, or become more, you are a leader.” I would add this description is what makes someone a good leader. Because the world, past and present, is full of examples of people whose lives have influenced others to dream less, learn less, do less, and become less. And they are leading others in a negative direction as much as great leaders lead others in a positive direction.
Our actions matter. And who we are matters.
So how do we write our own internal story and find the gift we have so we can share it with others?
By harnessing the power of journaling.
Writing down our feelings and emotions about our experiences can help us understand our own story. It can also help us rise above the storms in our lives to gain new understanding and wisdom about how we can use our triumphs, as well as our sufferings. In addition, we need to articulate our dreams and aspirations so we can determine how our gift can make a positive impact on others and lead to fulfillment in our own lives.
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