Are you being the leader others need you to be?

Updated: Jul 17, 2018

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader." John Quincy Adams

At a recent leadership program I facilitated I saw many acts of leadership during the six months. At their final residential in Canberra each of the 18 participants were required to make a five-minute presentation as part of a team. They were also invited to volunteer for roles during the program such as chairing sessions, presenting a business profile at an industry networking dinner, hosting guests and so on.

At the end of the program, one of the graduates, David, said to me – “I’m just so proud of everyone. I would have loved to have chaired a session or presented a profile but I decided to step back and let some of the younger people have a go instead. They’re incredible and I thought it would be more valuable for them as it’s something I’m quite comfortable with”.

I was blown away by David’s generosity, thoughtfulness and the leadership he provided to the group through his action of stepping back – he was being the leader that the group needed him to be.

Just as David showed leadership by stepping back, others showed leadership by stepping up.

Gavin was extremely nervous about presenting, almost debilitated, but he pushed through, showed great courage and overcame his fear in order to do his best for the rest of the team – if he didn’t present then that wouldn’t help them. Just like David, he was being the leader his team needed him to be.

“Be the leader that others need you to be” was a concept introduced to me by James Garriock from Insync Surveys when I facilitated some programs for Leadership Victoria at which he was a regular speaker.

I learnt a lot about this leadership concept during my mother Anne’s battle with terminal ovarian cancer. I would repeat James’ words like a mantra to keep me grounded and to spur me on to do what needed to be done during difficult times. It enabled me to do more, and be more, than I thought possible.

However nowhere was this concept demonstrated more than by my remarkable Mum. She was the ultimate leader for our family and friends during her illness.

One of the words that came up during the recent leadership program in Canberra was “Composure” and how important it is in the practice of leadership.

No matter how bad things got, Mum showed composure as well as grace, strength, courage, humour, positivity and love. She was still vulnerable and realistic, but somehow, she held herself together which gave those around her strength, courage and resilience. She wanted to take care of us and protect us and she showed this through her actions, as well as her words.

In coaching we talk about shifting our emotional state from less resourceful to more resourceful. In seconds you can change how you are feeling by changing three things: your posture and physiology, your focus, and what you tell yourself. As well as changing our own state, our behaviour can influence others.

Mum's behaviour influenced us to access a more resourceful state of mind and being. Just as anxiety is infectious in groups, so is composure. Mum was being the leader that all of us needed her to be – because she remained calm, that inspired the rest of us to pull together as a united team, regain our composure and to be our best selves (most of the time!).

I think it’s a great question to ask yourself – am I being the leader that others need me to be? This might be at work, in your family or in your community.

What might this look like? How might you behave? How would you be different? What might the outcome be for others? What might the outcome be for yourself? How could you tap into a more resourceful state to manage yourself more effectively? How might your behaviour positively influence others to access more resourceful states?

I'd like to encourage you to identify one way you could be the leader that someone else or a group needs you to be and practice that over the next week. Experiment with it, be curious and notice what happens. Maybe have a conversation with someone else about it.

Every day I keep learning more and more about the many forms of leadership through the remarkable people I meet in life – some of whom step forward, some of whom step back and some of whom step up.

Their actions bring out the best in others and also can bring out the best in themselves as a result.

So…..are you being the leader others need you to be?