I just spent the last week vacationing on the shores of Lake Ontario, a hallmark setting, not a rumble of city life for miles. Subsequent to this gorgeous setting I had very little access to the outside world. The one day that I was able to get the New York Times, I was struck by an article about President Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General.
Dr. Regina Benjamin is a rural Alabama family physician whom founded a clinic in a small shrimping village called Bayou La Batre. (sound familiar…yep Forrest Gump) The town of 2,500 contained residents with almost no health insurance, most are immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Since opening the clinic, she has rebuilt it 3 times due to hurricane devastation. During the rebuilding she twice mortgaged her own home, maxed out 3 credit cards, and to this day is owed $300,000 dollars of her own money she put into the clinic. If this is not the mark of a leader, someone who leads with action, then I don’t know what is.
I’ve often found that when academics, motivational speakers, politicians and the like speak of leadership, they regularly refer to military heroes. Individuals whom have marked themselves on the battlefield, bled for country, cause, or possibly just the man next to them. These metaphors ring true in our ears, years of cinematic vignettes flood our minds. We recall explosions, last breaths and the fearless leader promising it will be okay.
Fortunately for most of us, we have never had to endure the trappings of war, never been asked to charge a bunker in some distant land, or take a final sweetheart letter from a fallen comrade. But still each day offers us a chance of sacrifice, an opportunity to provide leadership in a moment of uncertainty, give hope when it seems there is nothing to be promised. We do not need a battlefield to experience this, we simply need to open our eyes to the opportunity before us.
We awake each day with the incredible gift to lead. Leadership is not pithy sayings, kitschy slogans, or daily calendar quotes. Leadership is taking on the personal responsibility, everyday, to have your actions and deeds be the example that your words describe. Leaders awake every morning with the conviction of person to carve their own path, they call on their own minds to be the lighthouse of guidance. A leader has the confidence, and welcomes the challenge, of standing alone, accountable and compassionate of others. A leader does not say, “follow me”, rather, a leader says, “follow you.” Be reliant, and unwavering with the commitment to yourself, and your own personal truth.
Leaders have vision. There is very little more powerful than an individual’s imagination. Imagination is often associated with fanciful daydreaming, the best friend of childhood. But imagination is the emotional capital of the true entrepreneur. It’s not enough to articulate your vision; you must be the very manifestation of your words. Leaders are always cognizant of the greater purpose, and have active plans of achievement.
Leaders set standards. Accountability begins intrinsically. We often assume accountability is a list of responsibilities. A schedule, punctuality, bills. Accountability comes from within. It is the fervent belief that I will not let myself down.
Leaders take vigorous action. Passivity is the mark of the follower. They are stagnant and allow themselves to be victims of circumstance rather. Circumstances only befall those who allow it to be so.
Leaders make excellence the expectation. An individual can never outperform their own expectations, if they expect excellence. Mediocrity is simply the result of mediocre ambitions. Be brazen with your thoughts, desires and expectations.
Leaders don’t set out to be so, the integrity of their actions and intent make them so.
All My Best,