Leadership takes courage.
Imagine the physical and psychological stress leaders have endured through their courageous decisions and actions throughout time. It can only be imagined because unless one has experienced it firsthand it is so nebulous to comprehend it is actually only imagined. Leading is not joyful, most times it is overwhelming, and this is exactly why everyone is not a leader.
In August 1945 Harry S. Truman ordered the use of what we call weapons of mass destruction on Japan. The Atomic Age happened in a horrific blink of the eye. Imagine now how President Truman felt after reports came back to Washington D.C. entire cities were leveled and nearly 100,000 Japanese were killed in one singular tragic attack. The weight of this one decision he had to bear alone everyday for his last 27 years. People do not think about things like this when thinking about the weight of being a courageous leader.
In most cases, we see leaders on sports fields and courts, in government, or the celebrity on television. We see these public leaders and we glorify them for their courage and abilities. This is a perfectly normal perspective because these are the examples so readily available through media. We see these leaders on television, hear them on the radio, see them and hear them on social media, and yes, even in printed media. We see them and we see their riches and successes. To some extent we idolize them with envy and wonder.
But there is more to leadership.
As humans we tend to remember the negatives in life. We remember our first automobile accident and in response we have sharpened our driving awareness to not have the same experience again in life… anyway hopefully that is the case! We stub our toe on the corner of the bed in the middle of the night and we walk a bit more carefully as a result. We learn from those negative experiences and we remember.
What about the good times? Do we really remember them as vividly as the bad times? We learn from the bad as a protective action. We have to consciously recall the good times. There are triggers which light our minds up when something happens to us which reminds us of a good or great experience. We learn from the bad and we get the warm fuzzies when remembering the good.
I will share some of my good, if not great leadership experiences and some may identify with them. The point is to see the joy through the challenges. It is difficult some days, but the warm fuzzies are like gold!
As a father, I did my best to raise my children. One girl and one boy less than 2-years apart in age. We suffered through the normal behaviors as they grew up. We attempted to display positive behaviors and model the way we felt life should be lived. The payoff comes now as I see their successes. Each one are their very own person. My daughter was born in the afternoon and my son was born almost exactly 12 hours opposite. My daughter is logical and needs to feel secure with everything around her. My son is abstract and his mind is, as he is, an artist’s mind. They are both successful in life as adults now. Their mother and I successfully navigated and led them through their childhood with little scars and gave them the tools to find their own happiness. A great leadership experience!
I used to be a teacher a community college and trade college. I am not a usual teacher or instructor. I am very interactive and fun. I think learning should be fun and not a miserable task needing accomplished to meet some ends. Countless times a student would come to me and ask for help with learning some concept or skill. I think most felt I would be less accessible than I was as a teacher, but I want everyone around me to be a success, and I will go to almost any legal length to help someone achieve something big in life. Great leading moments came as simply as when the light came on when a student learned what the shortcut Ctrl + B does on a keyboard! I still smile when I remember watching people I taught walk across a stage and receive a degree like it was a set of keys to success. Their accomplishment became my accomplishment and I truly feel lucky to have these experiences with people.
Some of the greatest leading joys have come through helping people achieve something. My children growing up and students learning and receiving degrees are excellent examples from formal leadership roles. Still some of the most gratifying leadership memories come from the informal leadership roles where courage and care were necessary to achieve something.
Making the conscious choice to behave like a leader and step into a situation which could blow-up on us is courage in action. We see examples of this everyday where normal people take the step and do something extraordinary to help someone or something. Heroes, it is what we call these people. In a flash with possibly little thought people are transformed from an average person to hero. For some they soak up the experience and others humbly try to move on. Look around and there are countless examples of everyday people doing courageous things.
I guess my message in this article is a bit confusing. Leading is not easy and it has lots of pitfalls and traps. It takes courage and the return on that investment is a warm fuzzy feeling. Shouldering the responsibility of leading is tough without a doubt. I am here to say, the satisfaction of letting our courage roam freely and step up to the challenges of everyday life where we can make the conscious choice to help others is the everyday leader the world is so desperately seeking every moment of everyday.
Smile, open your eyes, and be a leader. Go get a leadership job if you want pay, but do the right thing and be the everyday leader who is courageous and despite fear finds a way to do the right thing. Do not walk by blindly and when you do stop, care, care about what you are about to do and do not expect everyone to fall over with gratitude. Get your gratitude from within yourself, be humble.
Go be joyous as an everyday leader!