Whether we like it or not, we are leaders not only in our professional lives but also in personal ones.
An obvious thing comes to mind. You are a manager or a CEO so in other terms you are a leader. But are you a leader or a boss? What's the difference, some may ask. A huge one. A boss tells people what to do and expects results. A boss knows what he or she wants to achieve but does not share the vision with their team. A boss will readily fire an employee who did not perform. A boss expects their employees to work long hours with no regard for their lives and other commitments. A boss cares about his or her business but not about their employees.
What about a leader then? A leader has a vision that he wants to achieve and uses his or her enthusiasm to bring people on board. A leader looks for potential in people and cultivates it. A leader notices the weaknesses of the employees and provides guidance and training to overcome these weaknesses. A leader knows how changes may impact on their employees and thinks about mitigating them. Perhaps training will be provided, perhaps employees will be engaged in scheduling the change. A leader knows that happy employees will be more efficient at work, they will engage with customers in a more friendly manner, they will go that extra mile because it will be acknowledged, they will also be less likely to have sickness days off. A leader treats his or her employees in the way he wants them to treat each other and the customers.
In professional life you do not need to be in a leadership position to be a leader. You can be a marathon runner because this is your way to support charities. You may be then joined by your colleagues the following year. You give example to others who may think that they if you can do it so can they. You may decide to study and upgrade your degree. You develop a new daily practice that makes you happier and improves your well being. Others follow your example.
But, let's think about the impact we leaders have on those outside our workplaces. You may or you may not have children but young people are watching what is going on, what their future holds. They hear the news, they have older friends who are in employment and they are creating a picture of what their future jobs are likely to be like. And as I see it, I'm not surprised that it is so hard to find really good employees these days. What are the young people encouraged to aspire for? Exhaustion? No time for fun? Working for peanuts? Uncertainty of employment? Doing their degree, which sends that tens of thousands of pounds in debt, only to take a job they did not even study for? 12-hour working days just to stay in the job? Stress and stress related diseases before the age of 40? Addiction or depression? Who would be inspired by that? Is this what we want for our children and young people? This is what we model to them.
If we want to be real leaders, we need to start thinking big. We need to be aware that the way we live our lives is what we model to future generations. We need to start changing the culture of stress and exhaustion in our workplaces. We need to notice a human being in every employee. We have to care for our own and our employees' mental and physical well being. We do not influence people only in our departments, or our companies. We make an impact on those who will one day join us or replace us in our workplaces. Are we the example of leaders they inspire to be one day?