Everyone is a leader. I really believe that. That may be a new idea for you if you’ve always thought you needed a title or a position, or be a charismatic person in order to be a leader. But let me give you an example by way of posing a question. Is there anything you could do today that would make things worse for the people around you? If you can do something to make things worse, doesn’t it follow that you can also do something to make things better? The bottom line is that leadership is influence.
But here’s the catch: most people don’t think about leadership until they experience a leadership challenge. (Click to Tweet) They accept a supervisory position, a new leader takes over, or the environment changes. Then, when they experience more than they can handle, they begin to think about leadership a lot! This is pretty normal actually. In fact it’s the ones who experience a leadership challenge and continue to NOT think about leadership who tend to make the most mistakes and drive everyone else crazy!
So how can you and I avoid the trap of being unprepared?
I’d like to introduce you to the idea of leadership communities. Your leadership community consists of three separate circles. Here they are:
Circle of Responsibility
Your circle of responsibility represents everyone who depends on your for leadership – and to whom you own a leadership response. If you are a supervisor, it includes your employees. It includes your customers. If you are a parent, it includes your children. Most people recognize the circle of responsibility because it is usually reflective of their positional obligations.
Circle of Influence
Your circle of influence represents everyone you have the power to influence whom you may or may not formally be responsible for. If you are on a team, it includes all the other team members. It includes your peers and colleagues throughout the organization. It includes collaborative partnerships you are involved in. It includes adult children if you have them as well as your neighbors. Depending on your platform, it could include your industry or social network.
Your leadership network represents the folks in your leadership balcony. When you have questions or need some help, you go to them. They can be mentors, old bosses, old professors, parents, alma maters, organizations with a leadership reputation, guys you play golf with – anyone you rely on for leadership support. This is a circle that most “new” leaders aren’t familiar with. Their first mistake of not thinking about leadership until they encounter a leadership challenge is typical. It’s their next mistake that’s often critical. They think they need to figure things out on their own. People say that it’s lonely at the top. But it doesn’t have to be when you have a leadership network there to support you.
A leadership community is essentially the large circle that surrounds all these smaller circles. It represents someone’s entire leadership touch. As we become more effective leaders, these circles will likely grow with us.
Everyone leads. We supervise some. We usually answer to others. But we also have customers and stakeholders. We have influence in the local or industrial community. And no matter how much responsibility or influence we have, we never outgrow our need for the support of others. That’s why one of the first steps we can take as leaders is simply realizing that we have a responsibility to lead well in the community we find ourselves in, no matter who is in charge; to grow ourselves, to share what we learn, and to help others grow too. This is a mindset shift for most people. Recognizing and accepting our “membership” in our leadership community is the first step of leadership growth. Our leadership community depends on us to lead well.
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.