I clumsily stepped onto the escalator. As I adjusted my carry-on bag to fit on the step with me, I simultaneously hoisted my laptop bag more securely over my shoulder. Chicago O’Hare is a busy airport so I was mindful of keeping my things close to leave space for the sprinters who may run past me on the way down.
As I neared the end of my escalator ride to the baggage claim area, I watched an elderly woman walk up to an employee who appeared to be on a break. The employee was in uniform sitting along the edge of a claim area as she scrolled on her phone. The woman who walked up to her appeared to be asking for help. She wore a confused expression on her face and was pointing every which way as she communicated with the employee whose attention was still fixated on her phone.
By now I was off the escalator and looking at signs to find the correct exit. I walked by the woman and the employee and heard the woman say in a very thick accent that she didn’t know where her luggage was. The employee continued her scrolling and said, “Go to the claims area.” When the woman said she didn’t know where that was, the employee replied, “How can you not know? It’s that big area down there. You can’t miss it.” And the woman hesitantly began heading in the direction the employee had pointed.
Are you a leader?
I’m fascinated by interactions among people—the good ones as well as the less than stellar ones. In my business I help people communicate and lead more effectively, and I’m disheartened each time I ask a group I’m working with if they consider themselves to be leaders. Nine times out of ten, if people don’t have a leadership title in their workplace, they will tell me they’re not a leader. I disagree.
We all have the opportunity to be a leader.
I believe we can all show up as leaders regardless of job title, net worth, or personal and professional responsibilities. We have the opportunity each day to lead ourselves first—before we even think about leading others— and once we adopt that mindset, it’s not difficult to do.
But it’s often an internal struggle that holds us back.
That current belief of mine—lead yourself first—wasn’t always a tenet I followed. I stumbled my way through jobs where I was a named leader and those where I wasn’t, but I didn’t consistently consider myself to be a leader. I didn’t have a strong belief that I had the ability to lead myself, much less others.
1. Becoming a leader starts with challenging your own limiting beliefs.
Then one day I decided to get curious. I focused on the stories I’d told myself for years based on my life’s observations—stories like if I didn’t have “manager,” “supervisor,” or “director” in my job title, I wasn’t a leader. I began to question the beliefs I had. With genuine curiosity I looked through a different lens to find evidence of what was all around me—people I admired who showed up as leaders regardless of their circumstances.
2. Commit to more.
Next I committed to greater self-discipline. At times in my life I rolled with the status quo and didn’t push myself to give my all. True leaders do just the opposite, and in order for me to be a true leader, I knew I needed to do the same. I love the work I have the privilege of doing, and yet there are still responsibilities I have that aren’t at the top of my list of preferences. My self-discipline pushes me to accomplish it all whether it’s the client-facing work I love or my detailed bookkeeping which is necessary but definitely not loved.
3. Show yourself compassion.
Finally, my self-compassion has helped me in my quest to be a leader each and every day. My brain used to be filled with self-criticism. When I’d make a mistake, I’d replay it over and over in my mind, and when I knew I hadn’t given my all, I’d beat myself up for the lack of commitment I’d shown. These habits obviously didn’t serve me well, so I made a conscious choice to give myself understanding, kindness, and grace without fail. I now speak to myself and about myself just as I would a very good friend.
Showing up for yourself means you can more readily show up for others.
You may be wondering if the woman in the airport ever found her luggage. She did. As I walked past her and glanced her way, I saw the look of worry and confusion still on her face. I asked where she’d flown from, and when she told me Ft. Lauderdale in that incredible accent, I glanced at the board, slowed down my pace, saw that her bag would be at carousel 11, and walked her there. Her bag was the last one on the carousel. As the airport attendant took it off the belt, the woman accepted it from her. I wished both women a nice evening, and the airport attendant said, “Oh, you’re not together?” I shook my head no, smiled, and walked to my exit with the confidence of a leader who knows how to lead herself first so she can always show up and do the same for others.
In our current situation, we all need to practice our leadership. If you would like help in getting started, schedule a clarity call.
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