Leading Potential

July 7, 2010

In my recent post entitled “Leadership Is A Journey,” I stated my belief that a leader is someone who assumes full responsibility for their journey through life, strives to make their own journey as meaningful and significant as possible, and fully appreciates the opportunity they have to impact the journeys of others they come in contact with along the way.  It’s important to realize that the people you touch at work are not only on unique, individual journeys, but that they are all at different places in their journeys.

For example, that young person that works with/for you is so early in her journey that she is probably totally unaware that she is even on one. If asked, she would probably struggle to describe where she thought she was headed and where she was currently at along the way.

One of the most significant things you could do for her is to help her begin to see how critical it is to develop her potential to lead by first assuming full responsibility for herself. If she is young, new to the organization, and without a title, she most likely does not see herself as a leader. Encouraging her to assume full responsibility for herself and her behavior, pointing out examples of how others she works with are doing so, modeling the behavior yourself, and providing unsolicited positive feedback and more critical feedback if invited to do so are some ways you can help her to discover her nascent potential to lead herself and if someday given the privilege, others as well.

When I was in my early 20’s I’m not sure I saw myself as being on a journey and I’m pretty sure that any description of where I thought I was headed would have been very simplistic and egocentric. Yet by the time I turned 30, I was very clear that I needed to stop making excuses for my results in life and start assuming full responsibility for my behavior. I realize now that some key people in my life – mostly at work – instilled these principles in me in the brief but critical times our paths crossed.

They did not lead me on a journey, but they shared part of what they had learned on their own journeys with me because for whatever reason they cared enough to help. Many of these folks I will never be able to thank, but I can honor them by remembering them in my attempts to replicate and improve upon their efforts.

My own personal journey (I might share that someday) is really only about a few people – my children and the children they will have someday. I didn’t have my first child until I was 33, so you can see that this thing I now see clearly as my journey is relatively new to my life. And I realize that to fully help my children learn what I think they need to learn, I have to learn many important lessons myself first.

I do my best to assume full responsibility for myself and to help others along the way so that I can be better prepared to teach my children and grandchildren how to do the same. If I ever do something for you, know that I am doing it for me, so that ultimately I can do it for them.

Related Posts:

Leadership Is A Journey

C.K. Prahalad: The Responsible Manager

Respectful Engagement

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Comments (9)

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  1. Jesse says:

    It seems like 30 is the magical number where you and I experienced the same awakening. I started feeling the need to get more involved in helping others. I felt the need to help guide others.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    I wish my magic number had come earlier, Jesse, but it was not to be. Now I feel the real desire to do more with the time I have left. Thanks! Bret

  2. Bret, I love the way you’ve artfully defined leadership in this and the previous post. Although I never considered myself a leader, and wouldn’t use that term to describe myself, I can see, with your writing, how I might be willing to take on the mantle.

    Thank you.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    MJ, in my mind you are VERY much a leader. I watch you, I listen to you, I learn from you – you affect me and others in positive ways. You are living a very meaningful personal journey and are mindful of the impact you have on others along the way. Thanks, Bret

  3. Bret, this post is touching many of us well over 30! It’s important to develop our youth, especially our own children, into responsible and accountable people. I remember the most influencial person in my life always being my mom. Looking back, she was teaching me leadership almost daily through indirect means, somemtimes stories (made up or not) and she was brilliant at never feeling sorry for me when the drama of my young life felt overwhelming at the time. She always focused on my strengths and encouraged me to build upon them – wise women!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Hands down, the most influential person in my life was also my mother. She never held a leadership position, but I watched her deal with tremendous personal adversity and do her best to rise above it. In the end she was not successful, but she never gave up. She will always be my inspiration. Thanks for sharing! Bret

  4. She was VERY succussful at raising a great son – this is the highest success any parent can accomplish!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    thanks for the very kind words, Kathy. I’m hoping to have the same success with my own kids – and I have better material to work with than my mother did 🙂