What I’m Reading: Think Again, by Adam Grant
What I’m Listening To: Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast
In the beginning of my career, leadership always seemed like a responsibility I would have…one day. Hopefully. It felt like this elusive milestone that I would accomplish when I reached my (former) goal of becoming a City Manager. Then, about ten years ago, I came across a TED Talk that completely changed my mind on that belief.
In his viral video, Drew Dudley recalls a moment at a going away party when someone thanks him for making a difference in her life. (I cannot tell the story as well as he can – you must go watch that video.) After that meaningful exchange, he realized that an everyday moment in his life was a true moment in leadership. We have the ability to make a profound impact on others by simple, everyday actions.
You don’t need to have a fancy title like City Manager or CEO or be a supervisor to be a leader. Leaders are not defined by their job titles. Leadership can start now. Today. Right this second. (OK, maybe after you are done reading this.) There is no need to construe leadership as some magical, unattainable superpower that only the greatest of the great can achieve. If you are in ELGL, which *literally* has the word leader in its name, you are already a leader!
When we view ourselves as leaders, our focus usually falls on our extraordinary days – promotions, achieving milestone goals, overcoming obstacles, great athletic accomplishments, publications. Sure, those days mean something. They mean a lot – and they should be celebrated. But the funny thing is – most of our days are ordinary days.
When it comes to habits, as the wise Sean Covey noted, “we become repeatedly what we do.” Leadership is no different. In his (also excellent) book This is Day One, Drew Dudley advocates for setting a personal leadership philosophy. It sounds super fancy, but what it comes down to is this: identify your values and use them as criteria for decision making. When you don’t know what to do, ask yourself “what would the person who I want to be do in this situation?” And then do just that. Habits create consistency. Consistency creates impact. Impact is leadership.
So how can you, fellow local government leaders, live everyday leadership? Here are a few examples to start with.
- Making a point to be inclusive in meetings.
- Congratulating your co-worker on that promotion you were hoping to land.
- Staying late with a colleague to help her practice that important presentation.
- Volunteering to be a mentor to someone early in his career.
- Joining a professional organization to become better versed in your field.
- Volunteering for that professional organization.
- Signing up for that class on budgeting.
- Writing a thank you note to your direct report for the awesome job they have been doing lately. Be sincere and be specific. Throw in a Starbucks gift card for good measure.
- Or…writing a thank you note to someone who has made a difference in your life. Gratitude is a gift – share it.
- Being humble.
- Being willing to admit you made a mistake.
- Taking ownership.
- Apologizing, when necessary.
- Giving credit where credit is due.
- Taking a minute to really listen to that upset resident. Have a conversation. Don’t try to get her off the phone as quickly as you can. Empathy goes a long way.
- Holding the door for someone.
- Volunteering for a project that no one else wants.
- Sticking up for someone when they aren’t there to defend themselves.
- Acknowledging someone else’s leadership.
- Consistently producing the high quality work you know you can.
- Letting your co-worker know that racist joke was not funny and so not cool, man.
- Taking on that stretch project. You can do it!
Treat leadership like an everyday practice. Live your own leadership. It is not as difficult as it may sound. Go forth, trailblazers of local government! Continue to make that impact. Continue to be everyday leaders.