I had an opportunity to speak to business owners from across the country recently at their annual convention. Prior to my keynote address they gave out several awards to members of their group. There was one individual who, it seemed, hardly had time to sit down before she was called back to the stage to receive another award.
Her name was Jenifer, and she not only received an award for how well her business performed financially, despite the challenging market conditions, she also received an award for mentoring and helping others along the way, as well as the top award for all around best performance.
The interesting thing was, even after only meeting Jen on the bus ride from the airport and watching her interact with others at dinner the night before, I wasn’t a bit surprised at how many awards she received. Her leadership skills were clearly evident.
Everything about Jen, the way she carried herself, her energy level, her interaction with others, her desire to help, even if it was just holding the door for someone dragging a suitcase, demonstrated that she was a leader. At the dinner table she listened intently to the conversation, made everyone around her feel important and participated, but didn’t dominate. You could tell that Jen understood that leadership is not about the leader; it’s about everyone else.
Jenifer’s role within the group isn’t even a position of leadership, at least not in the hierarchical sense. She is, from an org chart perspective, a peer with the other business owners attending the convention. And yet, you could see people consistently seeking her out and asking questions to learn more about how she was running her very successful business. She always shared, and she always did it with a smile and a sense that it was conversation she could learn from too.
Jen was a reminder to me that leadership isn’t about position; it’s about mindset. It’s not about being in charge; it’s about making a difference. It’s not about telling; it’s about sharing. And it’s not about having authority; it’s about adding value.
My bet is that anyone could watch a group of people interact for a while and identify the leaders in the room without knowing anything about the group or the business. They stand out. And I don’t mean because they are playing the role either, I mean because they have simply come to think more about adding value to others than they do about benefitting themselves.
Try identifying the leaders next time you are in a group of people who know each other. And make sure you also ask yourself, would I be picked out as a leader if someone were watching me?
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