The Urge to Lead

| | Personal Leadership

Since Lolly Daskal and I launched our You Matter Radio Show  in January 2010 we have interviewed an amazing array of truly bright, inspired and inspiring people from around the world.  Our interviews are a way for us to inquire into the limitless ways people are making a difference by leveraging their unique passions, talents and experiences.

Our message is simple. You matter: who you are, how you think, what you say, what you do matters.

One of the things that stands out for me from our guests’ stories so far is that, while we have focused on the difference these individuals have been making in their sphere of influence, some of the most beautiful stories have been about the difference others have made for them – how someone else has truly mattered in their life at a time when it mattered most.  Sometimes it was someone they barely knew.

Every one of us can be that person for someone.  I would venture to say that every one of us has been that person at least once.  And we may never even know just how much of a difference we have made.

I speak often of the idea that you do not have to be “THE” leader to be “a” leader in any given moment.

Every one of these people is a leader in some respect, not because someone said they were, but because they chose to be and they keep on making that choice over and over.  And every one of the stories shared of people who made a difference for them is an example of someone choosing to be a leader in another person’s life:  not because they had to, because they had authority to do so, or even because it was the right thing to do, but because they believed it mattered, that they mattered and that the person they contributed to mattered.

When we are focused on who and what matters most to us we are most likely to experience a natural urge to lead – to speak up, step up and stand up to make a difference.  When we care deeply, I think the barrier to leading is often not whether we see the opportunities to act as a leader, but rather whether we are willing to take the action.

Think about what matters and who matters to you right now.  Think about what you can do or say that could make a difference, no matter how seemingly small.  And follow through on your natural urge to lead .  Commit an act of leadership.  You may just make the pivotal difference in someone’s life, your business or your community.

What do you think?  Have you experienced the “urge to lead”?  What gets in the way of committing an act of leadership, even when we see an action to take?


Enter A Comment

Gwyn Teatro   |   23 March 2010   |   Reply

You have *me* thinking this time Susan.
The last time I had an “urge to lead”, I expect was when my husband was in hospital. It became clear to me pretty quickly that I couldn’t simply stand by and trust the “system” to take care of him the way I felt he deserved. And so I found myself “front and centre”. Sometimes it was about working with the medical team to understand their goals and perspectives before providing my own, (sometimes contrary) view and moving toward a compromise. Sometimes it was simply making sure that my husband was comfortable by sourcing supplies and pitching in to help the overworked nursing staff by changing his bed linen or other such work. At the time it wasn’t about “leadership”. It was about doing something for someone I love. Simple.
And perhaps that’s the point. When we have the “urge to lead” it usually comes from a place of concern, or deep belief and that is maybe all it takes for any one of us to rise up and lead.

Susan Mazza   |   24 March 2010   |   Reply

Thanks Gwyn for a great example. And in those moments we aren’t thinking about “leadership” or “leading”, we are focused on making a difference in something we care about and/or for someone we care about. That doesn’t mean they aren’t acts of leadership.

Dorothy Dalton   |   24 March 2010   |   Reply

Hi Susan – excellent post! There are many arm chair leaders in this world, people who feel strongly about certain issues but not strongly enough to translate those words into actions or even to speak out. They are the people that make a difference even if it’s only a small one! Well said!

Susan Mazza   |   24 March 2010   |   Reply

You don’t necessarily have to make a bold move to make a big difference.

I am not sure I would actually call those in the “arm chair” leaders unless they choose to act even in small ways. Yet I do aim to find ways to motivate more people to get out of their “arm chairs”!

CV Harquail   |   24 March 2010   |   Reply

So many people assume that leadership is either about ‘them’ or about leading a group of people, and they forget that even a small act of support offered to an individual can create a situation where things move forward. I appreciate the reminder that leadership comes from small acts of caring, since these are within anyone’s reach.

Susan Mazza   |   24 March 2010   |   Reply

Thanks CV. And if those small acts are within anyone’s reach it means anyone can lead. I think people far too often underestimate the impact they have and can have on moving things forward.

Wally Bock   |   24 March 2010   |   Reply

Here’s my .02. You ask about feeling the “urge to lead.” In my experience that’s a dangerous urge because it puts the emphasis on leading and the position of the person with the urge. I’m far more comfortable with people who feel an “urge to accomplish.” That’s what I think the commenters above are also expressing. Gwyn and Tom specifically are describing actions based in a need/desire to achieve some end, not a response to some less specific urge to lead.

Susan Mazza   |   24 March 2010   |   Reply

Thanks for bringing this up Wally. When I speak about the “urge to lead” it is specifically in the context of speaking up, stepping up, or standing up to make a difference.

Doing anything for the purpose of being a “leader” (or attempting to show up as one) or because you think you should just because of your position (like feeling the urge to say something just because you think people are expecting you to) is not leading at all in my interpretation. And it can be dangerous.

What I am attempting to point to are those times when you feel that “being on the edge of your seat” kind of feeling because you see an action to take, or something to say that could contribute, that could move something forward. But you don’t always act. Sometimes it is a mindful choice. Yet many times something holds people back from acting on the “urge” as I have called it here.

Gwyn acted on that feeling for a purpose. Tom in essence shared that he often does step up when he feels compelled to even when he planned not to. They are the likely leaders.

I’ll suggest though that a lot of people see the opportunity to act or speak up to contribute and are more likely to feel the urge to do so when it is really important to them. Gwyn and Tom choose to take action when others would refrain due to fear, or a lack of self confidence, etc.

I think people have more opportunities than they may think to lead – that they feel it in moments and even see the specific opportunities, but for whatever reason they don’t take action. I want to give people an access to recognizing those moments of opportunity to lead so they can be awake to choosing in the face of whatever their considerations might be.

Tom Glover   |   24 March 2010   |   Reply

I find this interesting because I have walked into meetings, sometimes large group meetings and I tell myself “just sit quietly and listen. You don’t need get involved.” Then before I know it I have something to say and if I’m not careful I’m getting recruited to do things because I’ve stepped up.

Susan Mazza   |   24 March 2010   |   Reply

Seems like you know the urge I am talking about! And it does open you up to getting “recruited” as you put it. “Not wanting to get involved” is a reason a lot of people choose to stay in the background. Putting yourself out there has it’s risks, including getting more work to do!

What I work to get people past is when they feel compelled to contribute, see a specific opportunity to do so, and it really matters to them, but they hold themselves back because of considerations that more often than not are based in fear and uncertainty.

Rich Largman   |   24 March 2010   |   Reply

I am experiencing an interesting awakening in my heart right now that has that urge to lead once again showing up. Actually, I don’t think I would call it the “urge to lead,” but rather the “courage to lead.” And often, it is not about leading others, but rather simply the courage to be my most bold and loving self, speaking the truth when I see a truth needs to be spoken and leading with a loving concern for others. I have found time and time again that when I act with this level of courage and boldness, it almost always inspires thought and action in those with whom I interact. As you have often said, Susan, “to be inspiring, be inspired.” So perhaps it is in one’s own boldness and courage that others find the strength and inspiration to be bold and courageous.

Susan Mazza   |   24 March 2010   |   Reply

Beautifully said Rich!

Alye Inman   |   04 May 2010   |   Reply

I am so glad I met you today. Your blog is awesome, and reading your messages tell me a lot about myself and explains a lot of the choices I make everyday, by coaching and helping kids and young adults in sports and in life. Thank you, I look forward to reading your blog and I requested to follow you on twitter, so I look forward to that, too.

Susan Mazza   |   17 May 2010   |   Reply

It was great to meet you too! Thanks so much for coming by Alye. I look forward to getting to know you better.

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