“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” — Mother Teresa
Leaders are not just people on high.
There seems to be a general misconception that leadership is the responsibility and activity of the few.
But that's simply not true.
Strangely, it seems to take many people years (if ever) to realize that they have the capacity for change.
When I was a teenager, I vaguely knew that I could create my own chain of cause and effect.
That's around the time that most individuals start to experience greater independence and realize they can make significant choices beyond what their parents have done or would recommend.
If I wanted to make things happen, I found I could put them into motion.
But it wasn't until my early twenties when I realized I was unconsciously putting a cap on my potential for change.
I began to see other "regular" people choosing to lead lives that felt out of my reach.
Yet over time, I considered, "Well, if they can do that, maybe I can too...?"
Even after that continual awareness, it was still another couple years until the realizations progressed into action.
Literally the girl who had weaseled my way out of every single "running of the mile" in gym class, I decided I wanted to run a half marathon.
And I did.
I trained for six months, from zero miles to over thirteen. I woke up at 5:00am three times a week all summer to run before the sun was up.
I cross-trained and placed gold stars on my calendar for every day accomplished.
I pounded hundreds of miles into my sneakers.
Me! The non-athlete...turned into a decision-making, goal-dedication sorceress.
It was the beginning of a series of goals turned into action based on my own will.
If I could let my own legs take me thirteen miles, what else was possible?
A lot, as it turns out.
But it takes time to build your leadership skills.
Being a leader is a practice. It does get easier over time.
But it's always there.
And not only do you have the ability to determine your own path, you can positively influence the paths of the people you care about.
True leadership is generating and fostering human connection, which you can do regardless of rank.
That's what leadership is.
Not sitting on high. Not signing paychecks. Not pulling rank.
Learning to be comfortable and powerful in your own skin, and helping others learn that for themselves too—that's what leadership is.
Every interaction is a choice, and every time you choose on behalf of warmth and growth, you commit an act of leadership.
You can choose to be kind to yourself. In every single moment.
You can choose to extend that kindness outward.
What does it cost you?
Choosing to positively impact your own life and others' is literally free, and the returns are immense.
If you decide, you can continually choose vulnerability over self-protection, bravery instead of shrinking small.
The choice can seem hard—incredibly hard—sometimes.
But I know it's the way I seek to live my life. That is my north star.
Caring and receiving care is my life's work.
You have your own agency, your own power, that can shape your own life and the lives of others.
Go be a leader.
You already are.