Leadership. Not just a skill reserved for CEOs.

Leadership (n)

1. The set of characteristics that make a good leader: He lacks leadership qualities/skills.

2. The position or fact of being the leader: The group flourished under her firm leadership.

What is your current definition of leadership? Do you have politicians, industry connections, mentors that you consider good examples of leaders? Your answer to these questions are important, because I want break the mould of what we think leadership is, looks like and how attainable it is for ourselves.

I attended a QUT event the other day. And one of the key sentences I remember one of the speakers saying – which I coincidentally wrote down in my ‘notes’ on my phone, was:

“Leadership isn’t a role, it’s something you can put into practice in your every day life.”

Re-read that sentence and think about it. I definitely did after I heard it.

How many times have you read an article along the lines of “5 ways to be a true leader” or “10 signs you’re going to make a good manager” or “Do these 3 things everyday to become a better leader”.

I know I’ve read COUNTLESS articles like those. Just to be clear – there’s nothing wrong with that. But I want to offer an idea to you (one that you’ve maybe never thought of before):

What if – instead of only aiming to become a great leader when we’re in an executive or managerial role … we start becoming leaders in our every day jobs and life.

Leaders don’t always have to be front and centre (Felix’s Story). 

Felix works alongside Tenille in the IT department at ANZ (they literally sit side-by-side). He has the same job title (Computer Systems Analyst), generally the same day-to-day tasks and has been at ANZ for the exact same amount of time as Tenille (they were both hired as graduates).

One day the Head of IT approaches Tenille and asks if she has 5 minutes for a quick discussion. Felix is confused and wonders what that could be all about.

Tenille comes back to her desk after 5 minutes and tells Felix she’s been asked to give a presentation at the upcoming bi-monthly executive meeting.

Neither Felix nor Tenille have ever been asked to present at this meeting before. It’s a big deal.

Felix notices she doesn’t really look excited to give the presentation and thinks she must think she’s above it all.

He congratulates Tenille and zones out as he begins questioning his work efforts over the last months … he’s almost tuned Tenille out but just catches her asking him for his help with the presentation.

At first he’s annoyed. Why should he help Tenille when she’s going to get the glory of the presentation – not him – and if she’s so much better than him, why would she need his help?

Before he opens his mouth to say “Sorry I’m a bit overloaded this week.” He thinks about what Tenille would do if roles were reversed. Felix knows deep down – she would help him AND what his answer should be.

“Yeah Tenille, I’d love to help you. You’ve worked really hard over the last few months!! Send me whatever questions you have and any info you need.” He responds instead.

Leaders don’t need to shout to be heard … (Tenille’s Story).

When the Head of IT approaches Tenille and asks if she has 5 minutes for a quick discussion. Tenille is nervous and wonders if she’s recently made an error and overlooked it.

“We’d love to have you present at our upcoming bi-monthly executive meeting. We’re trialling inviting wider staff members to report on their department activities.” Says Tenille’s boss.

Tenille is ecstatic! No one in her department has been asked to report for the executive meeting before (it’s usually her boss).

Walking back to her desk, she glances at Felix and that realisation settles in a little deeper: no one in her department has been asked to report for the executive meeting before.

Which means Felix will most likely be jealous.

Sitting next to Felix she quietly tells him about the opportunity. She rambles on about hard work and how he would make a great presenter and finally works up the courage to ask him for his help.

Leaders can admit they didn’t do it ‘all’ alone …

Over the following weeks, Felix enjoys helping Tenille plan a kick-ass presentation that will ensure the whole department is represented excellently. He’s glad he accepted to help Tenille and he feels accomplished with the amount his contributed!!

Tenille is grateful that she had Felix by her side, providing input and giving his perspective on things she would have otherwise skated over. She knew she made the right decision in asking for help and she feels the presentation is a lot stronger with the help of Felix.

What can Felix teach us? 

You can be a leader in your every day life by supporting, helping, listening and being selfless towards others. Leadership starts with your behaviour – not with your title or your task. Owning your own actions and interactions are signs of a true leader.

What can Tenille teach us? 

To be a leader doesn’t mean to never ask for help and achieve #wins all on your own. Great leaders acknowledge other’s efforts to help you and support them in return.

Leadership also means being aware of the people around you. Tenille had every chance to be a smug show off about the opportunity – instead she was mindful of Felix’s feelings and took the time to make him part of the experience.

Remember: Leadership isn’t just a skill reserved for CEOs.