Posted by Brandon Kinsey | Kinsey Management, LLC (Houston, TX) – A Predictive Index Certified Partner

I was side blinded by a hypothetical scenario that was indirectly asked to me, “could I speak on leadership to a to corporate team that has been lectured by astronauts, professional athletes, and Fortune 500 CEO’s?” I must admit, the question and circumstances thereof, has bothered me all week. The question that lingers is, “Could I actively engage and inspire this group?”

To ponder deeper into the rabbit’s hole of the question and my own self-doubt requires some reflection and introspection. I want to propose 3 “Aha” moments that have occurred to me as I have dissected this question. I want to attempt to convince you that each and every one of us is a leader (or at least can be a leader) when called upon.

First, there must be a distinct separation between leadership and authority. In the beginning of my struggle with the scenario, I thought “those are powerful people with authority”. However, the more I really became consumed in thought, I realized this to be both true and false. With authority, you sometimes force, manipulate, or coerce others to action. This is not leadership. A true leader is someone who INFLUENCES (if you read last week!) Simply put, a leader uses their influence to bring the people around them to action. Leadership is a 360’ sphere of influence! In fact, while an astronaut, an athlete, and a CEO would obviously have large spheres of influence, so can the average Joe or average Flo. Case in point, when you give up your spot in the grocer’s line because you have a basket full of items to the working mom who just came in to grab milk after a long day, is that not leadership? And how does that effect the mom? The cashier? The bagger? The person behind you? Did that act of unselfishness lead to bigger actions from others that you may never see? I don’t want to infer that Tom Brady wouldn’t make a great speaker for your next leadership event. Obviously, a person’s higher level achievement and expert status will certainly increase their sphere of influence. However, I’d argue that there are influencers all around if you watch for them and they even work in your organization! Because of their selflessness, they have gained influence over their peers and this can be powerful when you engage them and make them apart of your organization’s vision.

Next, there is something to be said about leadership and passion. You wouldn’t expect the astronaut who came to speak to your leadership team to say, “I’m really not that interested in space, but wearing a space suit is cool.” Leaders are passionate and have expert experience in their field. I would argue that these people exist at many different levels in successful organizations. There are experts in your organization right now who have influence in every department from finance, to IT, to logistics and delivery. Any of these experts can be leaders within your organizational structure and you better hope you have them! They are passionate about their field and they have knowledge! Most importantly, they have the ability to transfer that knowledge to others. Without them, your organization is doomed to suffer.  You want people who are gifted with talent and passionate within their field of work. Most of us will never experience the influence of being the next Pope, President, or super bowl winning QB. We need to learn to embrace the fact that our sphere of influence can be just as powerful and just as large if we are being selfless influencers.

Lastly, leadership is in fact for everyone and anyone can be trained. I believe that leadership cannot and must not be relegated to those at the top. That simply will not work for the long haul. That’s not to say that leadership can’t be top down, but it works best when its top down, bottom up, and lateral. As stated earlier, leadership is a 360’ sphere of influence. Within each group within your organization, you should identify your leaders using an assessment tool, such as Predictive Index, and then groom those high potentials and invest to build more. The Kellogg Foundation did a study in 2000 that had compiled data from public and private universities across the nation. The researchers from UCLA concluded the following: every student can be a leader, leadership cannot be separated from values, leadership skills must be taught, in today’s world, every student will need leadership skills. This verifies the essential need for leadership to be a 360’ sphere of influence. In fact, this would also quell the notion that you “either lead or follow”. I would say you should be doing both if leadership is truly 360’ in your organization.

So, to answer my own question, I’m not sure I would be as interesting as an astronaut, professional athlete, or Fortune 500 CEO who tells their life story; however, I would like to think I could entice them to open their eyes to see more leaders like me – leaders who truly understand what it means to influence others, are deeply passionate and continuously seek to learn about leadership and the impact it has on others.