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Leadership Starts With You

News Type Leadership News

Leadership is a word I hear often, usually to describe what is lacking from a person, team or organization. It’s easy to proclaim that someone “isn’t a strong leader” or a team “needs more leadership.” I’ve come to observe that what is often missing from one’s assessment of “leadership” is a sense of ownership and — well, leadership. 

I’m offering a definition of leadership after reviewing many from various sources. 

A leader is anyone who takes responsibility to positively influence and inspire themselves and others for the sake of learning, growth and accomplishment of declared goals.

There are two broad categories of people I see who would benefit from a more personalized and empowered view of leadership: first, individuals who seem to assume they are not leaders in the present day and are waiting to “one day be a leader” by way of a certain title or position, and second, people who have a leadership “title” who operate without an ongoing leadership philosophy or development plan who often assume their title guarantees their leadership. 

Beyond the definition I proposed, I also want to offer a perspective of leadership that applies to everyone; students, interns and part-time and full-time employees at all levels in every organization: Leadership is an evolutionary journey, not a destination, propelled through self-awareness, learning and practice. Simply stated, leadership is not a binary state of either “being a leader” or “not being a leader”; it’s a matter of where we are in our leadership growth.  

Leadership is a process and a journey that starts with you, and it can start today. No matter where you fall on an organizational chart and in your career journey, you can influence, inspire, learn, grow, declare and accomplish goals. In fact, I posit our teams, organizations and communities would be better off if we all saw ourselves and treated each other as leaders.  

If we know what leaders do (inspire and influence), let’s look at how they do it: In very brief terms, leaders are able to develop and articulate a vision that connects with peoples’ values and inspires change over sometimes long periods of time, which requires ongoing motivation and communication.  

While this sounds simple, it is made increasingly complex by the very nature of human personality and behavior, both of the leader and the people the leader is attempting to influence.  

Effective leaders (those further along their leadership journey) have a strong sense of self-efficacy, and they know how to manage their emotions, allowing for other people to do the same, authentically. Transformational leaders (those even further along the leadership journey) can make invitations for others to step into the same sense of authentic self-awareness and self-efficacy, opening the doors to explore the depth of our human potential. Seeing yourself as a leader and practicing leadership is the first step of the journey of becoming good to great to effective to transformative. There are small steps you can start today, because you are the leader of your life — no promotion required! 

Develop a personal leadership framework:

Develop a strong sense of self by identifying and anchoring into your own core values, strengths, vision and personal purpose. It’s hard to lead others if you aren’t leading yourself, which starts with knowing yourself (where you are and where you are going). There’s an interesting MAPS course coming up that can help you start: Developing the Strategy of You.  

Build your self-efficacy:

Effective leaders are authentically confident in their abilities without being arrogant. When you feel unsure of yourself or your abilities, explore the source of that feeling to help develop a plan to build confidence through an intentional learning, development or growth plan. Every great leader had to start off somewhere, so adopt the (growth) mindset that you are making yourself into a leader, step by step.

Observe and listen:

Great leaders are the greatest listeners and observers, so become an Olympic-level observer and listener of yourself and everyone around you. Learn to understand what is said and left unsaid by you and those around you. When you listen, be sure you are listening to understand, not simply “waiting to speak.”

Ask questions:

Leaders ask questions that help explore and solve issues. Great leaders ask questions that help other people find the answers themselves. Practice developing the art of question asking now. 


Ask a leader you admire for a book or podcast recommendation, or take a class. Be sure to take good notes so you can practice what you learn; learning about leadership does nothing without some action. Practicing leadership takes vulnerability and courage, so brace yourself to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Register for one of Brandi’s courses on leadership:

MAPS Coaching as a Precision Teamwork and Leadership Tool 
March 13, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Ohio Union 

MAPS Strategic Personal Development: The Strategy of You
April 9, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Ohio Union 


The best way to make leadership a continuous practice of learning and development is through reflection — ideally through writing. To grow your leadership, I suggest you take time to reflect on what you observe and learn — from yourself and others. Write down what you’ve learned from practicing leadership and what you want to try next. Your life can be a leadership laboratory, and you are the primary researcher. You will teach yourself more than you realize. I highly recommend a practice of writing daily for leadership growth and development.  

Leadership starts with you, and it is never too early or too late to start or reframe your personal leadership practice.