“Be the change you wish to see in the world”
-Mahatma Gandhi (or Arleen Lorrance)
Maybe you have found yourself coming to an unfortunate realization: It seems like leaders are hard to come by these days. Perhaps you feel like the people in charge are only driven by selfish reasons, and they really don’t have your best interest at heart. Especially at a time of great upheaval and uncertainty, it’s hard to put your faith in your appointed leaders when you have been let down so many times in the past. But real leaders are out there, and if you’re not already following one that you feel you can trust with your whole heart, then you should really consider being that person yourself.
Start Small, Start at Home
In the midst of a pandemic, you must first realize that regardless of anything else going on outside your walls, your house itself needs your leadership. It doesn’t matter what your official role is inside your home – you can be one of many children living at home with parents, a parent, a bachelor or bachelorette, or anywhere on the spectrum. There is room for you to lead.
Even if you live at home with parents, for instance, you can still be a leader. That means taking initiative whenever you can to help out at home. Come up with ideas to help avoid too many people going out. Clean up wherever you can in the home without being asked. If you see someone working on something, don’t ask if they need help when they clearly do, just get in there and help them get the work done. Even if you are not the head of house, you can still be a leader.
Lead by Example at Work
If you work outside the home, there’s a good chance that you work as part of a team. But what if you don’t have any kind of management title? Can you still be a leader in a team of equals? The answer is a resounding “YES!”
There are two kinds of workers: people who come in every day and put in their time and leave, and then there are people who take pride in the quality of their work, even if that means sometimes they have to put in extra effort. Time and time again, you will find the ones that collect their paycheck and leave are the ones who have the least satisfaction in their job, and are also the least motivated. They are the followers The other group tends to be the ones who move up in the company. They are the leaders.
How can you make sure you’re a leader and not just a follower at work? The simplest way is to think about the things that you would want others to do for you to help you get your job done, and do those things for the others in your group. Maybe a co-worker is swamped and risks not getting out on time. Help them get their job done (ask them if you can help, or just do it, depending on your relationship with that co-worker. Be careful not to over-step any boundaries, and make sure to maintain a positive attitude when doing it.)
Be a First Responder
No, not everyone needs to be a paramedic, EMT, policeman or firefighter in order to show leadership out in public. But everyone can lead by example whenever an opportunity presents itself.
In normal times, if you see an elderly woman fall on the ground twenty feet away, what is your first response to this? It might be natural to see others who are closer to the woman and hope they help her, but why not rush to her aid, whether or not someone else is closer? If you can ingrain it into your head that there are every day occasions where you can be the first person to respond, then you are already a leader in the eyes of the people you help. Go the extra mile; offer to stay with someone who may need help, or walk with them to their car at night to make them feel safe. Speak up whenever you see someone doing someone else wrong. You’ll find that the more often you do these things, the more natural it becomes for you.
Be the Light in the Darkness
“The load is heavy and the road is long
And we’ve only begun to fight.
We just can’t give in, we just can’t give up.
We must go boldly into the darkness
And be the light.”BJ Barnham, “The World is On Fire” – American Aquarium
As mentioned in the song quoted above, you are ready to lead when you go boldly into the darkness and become the light for others. It doesn’t matter at all what other leaders are doing, YOU can be the leader that someone else needs in their life right now. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you can be the first person to reach your hand out and help strangers; you can be the difference between the team leaving on time or the team falling behind; you can be the biggest helper in your family regardless of your role in the home. And most of all, you can be the leader that you yourself wishes to have.
You don’t know why it’s such a far cry
From the world this world could be.
You don’t know why but you still try
For the world you wish to see.
You don’t know how it will happen now
After all that’s come undone
But you know the change the world needs now
Is there, in everyone.Jackson Browne, Standing in the Breach
Here’s a little secret: it doesn’t take thinking about how to be a leader, it just takes doing it. Don’t think, just get in there and give it what you got. At the end of the day, the change the world needs now is there, in all of us.