A smiling woman in a black outfit seated on a stool

America loves achievers. The ones who set big goals, rise to challenges and bring quick solutions to the table. We need achievers. They bring enormous fun and productivity, but achieving and leading are not synonymous. This narrow view misses how each of us is a human being who seeks meaning and is meant to shape matter, build culture and contribute to the world.

Rather than chasing an elusive image of “the top,” what if we chased community in a society of individualism? What if we prioritized emotions and feelings in a culture of cognition? What if we unearthed morality in a world that has become increasingly utilitarian? In our unique human experiences, each of us has the potential and capacity to fill a leadership role.

Achieving and leading are not synonymous.

Often, our commitments, interests and responsibilities fall into four categories: family, work, faith/ideology and community. Whether at the helm of a company or the head of the dinner table, there are paradigms and practices that can help us lead well across the different spaces of our lives.

Here are three ways leaders can choose to lead well even when no one is watching:

Leaders bring order to disorder.

Leaders see where things are disheveled or not adding up. They step in and gently, yet authoritatively create systems and structures so that people, processes and priorities can flow.

[Leaders] step in and gently yet authoritatively create systems and structures so that people, processes and priorities can flow.

They’re also the ones who take stock of resources, consider what is needed and where there is room for growth. They then allocate resources in support of that growth and support as many people as possible. A leader takes in chaos and breathes out calm.

Leaders show people how to be.

Leaders will initiate, chart a course and help those under their care to rally around the collective direction. They will set expectations that are reasonable, clearly communicated and agreed upon.

At their best, they go first in loving the unlovable and forgiving the unforgivable. While stepping up to the plate, great leaders remember that people are fragile and able to be hurt. They deserve to be handled with care.

Leaders consider themselves stewards, not bosses.

A leader’s first priority is to help those under their care to thrive. Recognizing that burnout is not healthy, leaders want their teams to flourish. They care more about who the people on their team are becoming than what they’re contributing. Leaders advocate for people and always value them more than progress.

Leaders advocate for people and always value them more than progress.

Leaders consider themselves to be one of the team.

Leaders aren’t “at the top” of corporate ladders. Instead, they are team players and in the daily rhythms of life, they are like each of us. They are the ones pushing shopping carts, engaging in meaningful conversations on patios, cleaning gutters and walking next door to clean their neighbor’s gutters, too. Leaders are people just like us, and they intentionally care about the people around them.

We each have a calling and the capacity to lead well in our families, workplaces and communities. When we honor and respect our differences and bring the best of ourselves to the table, everyone wins.

Have you ever had a great team leader or manager? What about their leadership style made them a strong and healthy leader?

Image via Melanie Acevedo, Darling Issue No. 20

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