This article is not specifically or exclusively about leaders, leading or leadership. It’s about two powerful words that I recently realized are more accurate descriptions of men and women who do great things and who help other people do great things.
Please read on:
“To accomplish excellence or anything outstanding, you must listen to that whisper which is heard by you alone.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
You’re a “leader.” “No I’m not” my friend replied.
I’ll get to the rest of this conversation in a minute.
“Leader.” This word made my friend uncomfortable. I could see it in the way his eyes and his stance were diverted and redirected away from me. He seemed to be embarrassed.
It was the word “leader” that roused up intense emotion and distracted him from what we were talking about. A simple word with a powerful and intimidating meaning.
Three of my humble observations:
1 – To most humans, the word “Leader” can be intimidating and awe-inspiring at the same time. When people hear the word “leader” their mind’s eye usually downloads images of Mother Theresa, John F. Kennedy, Steve Jobs, Susan Wojcicki, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Golda Meir and so many other great leaders.
2 – There are thousands of definitions, descriptions and opinions of what a leader is or should be. I like to keep things simple so here’s my definition of what I perceive a leader to be.
“A leader can be your supervisor at work or the colleague who sits next to you in your office. A leader, not only makes things happen, they empower and motivate other people to achieve and make things happen. A leader makes certain that his/her people are physically and mentally out of harm’s way. Leaders are always teaching and helping their people become stronger and feeling more valued. A leader ensures that hers/his people are always challenged and inspired and a leader is humble enough to step up and bring out the best in people.”
This was my definition before the conversation with my friend.
3 – I want to modify the definition in observation #2 with two words. As I explained to my friend why I thought he was a leader, these two words came to mind before any of the definitions in observation #2 kicked in.
The Two Words: “Stand Alone”
“There are times when our conscience demands that we must stand alone against all odds… armed only with our courage and faith.”author unknown
As my friend was speaking with me I got the feeling he needed to talk out loud and figure out what really happened to him more than share the story with me.
He went on to tell me his story. It was a long story so I’ll summarize it. In a town where he has his business, an 8 year-old girl that he knew fell deathly ill and her family needed substantial money to get her the medical attention that would save her life. She was an undocumented immigrant.
My friend decided to do something to help and he organized and pulled together all the people in his town plus the neighboring towns. They raised enough money to help this little girl. He even persuaded the doctors to donate their services wherever they could.
He said “I don’t know how I did it.” “You’re a leader” I replied. “No I’m not” as he humbly continued to deny it. “OK, you’re not a leader, then you have the grit to “Stand Alone” and make things happen.”
He stopped and slowly raised his eyes and locked them on mine. His posture and his voice changed. A new confidence emerged and he assertively answered “That’s exactly what I did. That I’m good at. I’ve got the nerve to stand alone if and when I have to.”
I didn’t want to devalue his new found recognition and perspective on who he was so I kept my mouth shut and just silently thought to myself “Maybe you’re right. You’re not just a leader, maybe you’re something more powerful.”
The world needs humans that have the courage to “Stand Alone.”
Being confident, comfortable and secure in being able to “Stand Alone” is enormously powerful and invigorating.
“Stand Alones” have the courage to “stand up and go it alone” if and when they have to. The one extra “chromosome” that they have gives the “Stand Alones” that spectacular edge over anyone they come in contact with or invariably come up against.
A “Stand Alone” has the fortitude and know how to stand firm when everyone around them is losing it. They have the strength to remain upright when everyone and everything around them is collapsing and is unsettled.
To “Stand Alone” is not to only go it alone. To “Stand Alone” is also to push and pull with everyone and make sure they all make it to the other side.
To“Stand Alone” is to be the one that turns off the lights and the last one to say goodnight, but most important of all, it’s the one who has the courage, endurance and strength of character to be the one standing guard, eyes wide open… alone if need be.
Are you a leader or want to be a leader? Are you sure about that? Maybe it’s time to rethink the answer to that question.
Being a “Stand Alone” is so much bigger and so much more powerful.
Good Luck. Stay safe out there. Never give up on your dreams. Never.