At a social function recently I found myself in an engaging conversation with a psychologist and a fitness coach. We took turns sharing the interesting nuances of our professions. After my turn explaining the exciting ways I get to be involved in leadership as a consultant, coach and writer, one of my new friends commented that leadership seemed to go hand-in-hand with both psychology and fitness. I asked what he meant. He clarified that commitment to developing a healthy body and a sound mind are some of the first traits necessary to lead both oneself and others. “But,” he added, “I’d feel awkward presenting myself as a leadership expert. Who am I to say I know what leadership is and that people should listen to me?”
It was such a great question. Who are the real leadership experts anyway? Are they the people who manage Fortune 500 companies, hold elected positions, or write bestselling books? They certainly qualify, but are there others?
I’m convinced everyone can become not only a leader but an expert as well because we all have the ability to influence and to learn and grow. That means you! And it can happen much sooner than you think. What a great loss it would be for anyone to sidestep their leadership potential because they felt unqualified. So let me share my rationale with you. You can become a leadership expert from right where you are, starting today.
You are most likely already a leadership expert to someone.
Each of us has a leadership community – people we influence and are influenced by; people we’re responsible for and who are responsible for us. Some of our leadership communities are large and some are small. As we grow, our communities grow as well.
But regardless of the size of your leadership community or platform, it is almost certain that someone looks to you for influence. This means you are an “expert” to them. If you are a supervisor, your leadership expertise probably influences your subordinates more than another other person’s. The same can be said if you are the parent of young children. If you operate a business, at some level you are an expert to your customers. If you write or blog, you influence your readers. If you interact with, instruct, or teach others, you are an expert to them. Friends who value your advice on anything at all (including leadership) consider you an expert enough to ask.
A title does not make a leader.
Just because people don’t introduce you as a “leadership expert” doesn’t mean you can’t be one. John Maxwell says that everything rises and falls on leadership. That means no matter what title you hold or what profession you’re in, you are also in the leadership business. Very few people are solely leadership specialists. Virtually all of the high profile leadership experts are considered as such because of knowledge, skill or experience in a certain industry or organization. So whether you are in psychology, fitness, or anything else, succeeding in that field makes you a leader. Taking the opportunity to develop and share your knowledge and experience with others makes you an expert.
Leadership is a journey, not a destination.
If no one could become a leadership expert until they figured out everything there is to know about leadership, we simply wouldn’t have any leadership experts around. There’s always much more to learn! We’re all works in progress, which means you’ll never have it completely figured out. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be an expert on what you’ve learned so far – and your expertise will deepen as your grow. The insight you gain today can be someone else’s breakthrough tomorrow – provided you share it with them. (Click here to Tweet that).
You’re never too unqualified to set a good example – and that includes setting a good leadership example.
If you don’t remember any of the other points, remember this one. Sometimes we do need certain titles or certifications to make specific leadership decisions. But we are never too unqualified to set a good leadership example. At its pure foundation, leadership is about serving others – something anyone can do. Being a leadership expert is a volunteer opportunity. Many times it’s not particularly glamorous, but it’s one of the only ways to truly earn the opportunity to influence.
In the second post of this series, I’ll share some practical ways you can take the leadership expertise you currently possess and share it with others.
Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader. Receive his ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website or follow him on Twitter.