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Never Miss an Opportunity to Lead

By: Aleta Norris



I have been paying attention to leadership in all realms of life, intentionally, for almost 30 years.  I see it all around me.  I’ve observed it.  I’ve read about it.  I’ve researched it.  I’ve responded to it.  I’ve received it.  I’ve provided it.  I’ve criticized it.  I’ve praised it.  I’ve been happy in the midst of it, and I’ve been sad.


We see leadership everywhere:  In organizations.  In families.  In parents.  Between friends.  In the midst of strangers.  At the checkout counter.  On the freeway.  In restaurants. Between colleagues.  In volunteerism.


A few things I believe about leadership:

  • It is a struggle.
  • It is a privilege.
  • It is selfless.
  • It is noble.
  • It changes lives.
  • It impacts people.
  • It is born.
  • It is made.
  • It is difficult.
  • It is simple.
  • It is critical.
  • It is a responsibility.

And, perhaps most of all, I believe employees deserve strong leadership.  Leaders too often think the leadership thing is about them:  it’s about their promotion, their raise, their title, their power, their corporate climb, their accomplishments, their office.  In fact, one leader said to his employees, “Listen, I want to get one thing perfectly clear; I don’t work for you, you work for me.”  This person is missing the boat entirely.  It’s much more humble than that.  Leadership is a privilege.  It is a responsibility.  Leaders GET to help people.  Employees need support, encouragement, direction, clear expectations, candid feedback, recognition, a career path, a cheerleader.  Employees need resources, and they need someone to help remove obstacles and understand reasons.  In a lot of situations, leaders give obstacles and reasons a different name.  Their word is ‘excuses.’  Not usually.  For example, let me ask you… have you ever missed a deadline?  Did you have an excuse, or did you have a reason?  The reasons can be many:  multiple priorities, shared resources, limited resources, relying on someone else who wasn’t able to pull through, emergencies, urgent requests, way too much on your plate, and on and on and on.  Perhaps you’ve had at least one manager who has said to you, “You know what?  I’m tired of your excuses.”  Did you feel understood?  valued?


Employees need to know that they matter, that they even exist.  We’ve heard many employees say something like, “I feel completely invisible… like I don’t really even matter.”   One woman shared, “Basically, the one thing I want is to be able to come to work every day and know that there is just ONE person who even cares about me.”  Still another (who was passed by a manager in the hallway who did not acknowledge her but who said good morning to the manager who was walking ten feet behind her) said to me, “I feel like a piece of furniture.”   The good news is, when I shared this last story with a group of leaders in this very organization (about the blatant disregard for this woman), a manager piped up in disbelief and said, “You have GOT to be kidding me!  One of our managers did this?”  I am so glad for the many leaders who do have humanity in their genetic encoding.


When you ask people what they do for a living, very few people respond by saying, “I’m a leader.”   They went to school to learn a trade or craft or technical talent.  This is what defines them.  Yes.  That is, until they become a leader.  Leadership is different from your technical expertise, and it needs attention.  The day you become a leader is the day you sign up to learn how to be a leader.  It’s the day you commit to caring more about other people than you care about yourself.


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