Are You a Leader?

I don’t know when I first started using the word leadership.

What I do know is that, when it did enter my vocabulary, I didn’t think to apply it to myself.

Why would I?

My definition of a leader was limited to those other outwardly successful people. These were people who ran businesses or were top performers in their field - those were the REAL leaders. It just didn’t register with me that I was already operating as a leader.

Who or What Is a Leader?

Everyone is a leader. Everyone.

Leaders are 10-year-olds trying to discern who to play with on the playground; a leader is someone navigating her teen years, a senior choosing colleges, a woman participating in a book club, an employee engaging in a team at the office. Even being a parent or running your own household are activities that qualify you as a leader. What I have come to realize is that if I am actively choosing to lead my life, then I am a leader. And so are you!

So why do we not consider ourselves leaders? In “Leadership and Self-Deception,” the Arbinger Institute describes how choice and self-betrayal are key factors in identifying where we leave the leadership path of life and head down the road most traveled.

Leadership and Self-Deception

When we’re trapped in self-deception, it’s like we’re living in a box. We can’t see the reality around us – and we certainly can’t function as leaders in our lives.

So how did we get into that box in the first place?

Through an act of self-betrayal.

Self-betrayal is doing something that’s contrary to what we feel we should do for another – for example, not getting up during the night to help feed your baby so your spouse can sleep, even though you really feel that’s what you ought to do.

When we betray ourselves in this way, we start to see the world in a way that justifies our self-betrayal (I need the sleep more, I deserve it, I work hard all day…), so our view of reality becomes distorted (she’s lazy anyway, just staying at home all day…). And that’s when we enter the box.

But there is a way out of the box. In my work with all types of people, whether they are 15 or 50, student, executive, or somewhere in between, choice is the variable that gives people the ability to fully own their lives and contribute to the world as leaders.

Making the conscious choice to avoid self-betrayal, and instead honor our impulses to do something for another, changes the whole dynamic.

Making the choice to get up and help your spouse with that baby, for example, keeps you out of the box, and allows you to see reality clearly. There’s no need for justification.

And building on that foundation of choice allows you to create your most exciting and fulfilled life yet.

Challenge: Have a conversation with someone today and create a list of how each of you shows up as a leader in your lives.