Living A Life Worth Following

Lisa Mcinness-Smith,

Some of the world’s great leaders I have admired are Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and Florence Nightingale. Each of these people lived out their convictions regardless of the sacrifice to themselves. They have been world changers. They never set out to inspire millions of people, just simply to make a difference right where they were.

Are You A Leader?

Understanding your motives and reasons to lead is of utmost importance. A little self-evaluation as to why you want to influence and lead people down a certain pathway is most valuable. Take some time to answer the following questions:

Why do you want to lead? Who do you want to influence today? What is your motive for leading?

It is important to consider if you are a leader or not. I think a better perspective is, do other people consider you a leader and someone they would want to follow? Leadership does not necessarily come out of position. You can be a manager in a place of great authority and not be a leader. In fact, there are many people in high places whom few want to follow. It has to do with the way you live and work in front of your fellow man. Those within your circle of influence will decide if you are a leader or not.

I was lucky enough to learn about leadership through my interaction with a group of 12 remarkable young women…

Leading The Few

As goal setting has always been important to me, my first session with this group began with dream building and goal setting. I watched each of these beautiful young women articulate her own, sometimes very personal, aspirations. It took me back to when I first began the exciting process for myself. Everyone in the group had to take risks. It was a risk simply to articulate those thoughts and ideas that each person had secretly kept within. It required them to be vulnerable and to begin to speak out words that may never have had a voice before. As a result, we bonded quickly.

Sometimes a leader has to go back to early experiences, remembering what it was like learning these same things that you are trying to impart. Expert status is not a prerequisite for leadership, but it is important to be “others-centred”. Care first; lead second!

There were times through this process when I was unsure what I would impart. One thing I learned was that when the river of life appears to have dried up, it can come forth with a gush when someone is so thirsty that they almost demand to drink. Not because you feel like giving, but simply because someone you care about places a demand on you. I think mothers and fathers know this feeling very well. Their working life can leave them exhausted; yet their own children can continue to draw their energy and attention.

Being Real

Leaders encourage the power of synergy. They gather people together, believing that the effectiveness of the group is far greater than the sum of each individual. Leaders also tap potential. Leaders look for the good in others. They can draw it forth without feeling threatened.

Leaders are not loners. Leaders are part of the team, who understand when it is their turn to give, or their turn to listen. Great leaders are also great followers. They know when to take instruction and advice from others. They also know when to share it down the line.

What Are You Creating?

Leadership doesn’t have to have spectacular or even concrete results. Leadership requires a belief that your contribution matters, regardless of whether you can see the seeds sprouting or not. Leaders have faith that eventually the plant will bud and bloom.

Leaders should be creating other leaders, not just a band of followers to hang on to. Leaders should also become cheerleaders, willing to stand on the sidelines to watch their protgs run their own race.

Many people believe that you need a group or a crowd to lead, in order to be a leader. However, leadership has taken place when one heart has touched just one other, and inspired them on to greater things. What’s the point of being at the “top of the tree” if you have no one with whom to share the view? Many supposed corporate leaders have worked hard to achieve a top position, but have ended up alone. Leaders know that life is about loving people and using things, not the reverse.

Appearances can be deceptive. We know not to judge a book by its cover, but we must recognise a tree by its fruit. You will know a person by what their life has produced. Carefully study the fruit of a person’s life before you choose to follow them, and choose carefully with whom you will spend your time, or your life.

Who Am I?

Adults are really just kids in big bodies. We age on the outside and expect that we mature on the inside. Sometimes circumstances simply reveal how much maturing we still have to do. After I had my two babies 19 months apart, I was feeling rather fragile and extremely tired. My speaking schedule had not slowed, as my second baby had been an unexpected surprise. Commitments were in place 12 months ahead, so the babies became part of our travelling entourage, along with my husband’s parents and 22 pieces of luggage.

Sometimes it felt like a huge party, while other times it seemed like a nightmare. It certainly never lacked a sense of adventure. Several trips were made to the United States during this time to meet commitments. Audiences were often large, and the line up of speakers read like a who’s who of the speaking world. This struggling Aussie mum spoke alongside two former American Presidents, a Vice President, rock stars and country and western singers. We wondered how we had ended up in places like these, but by faith we had a sense of destiny.

I made it through five months, but the following three months saw me crashing to a halt. My body said “enough!” The babies and the big audiences had taken their toll. I ended up in bed, and not just for a night but for three months! My two babies under two years old wanted their mummy, and my husband wanted his competent, motivated wife. She was nowhere to be found.

The lesson from this sabbatical was for me to learn that what I did and who I am are two different things. What I did was not so important, but rather who I believed myself to be really mattered. My job was simply to use the gifts that I had been given in the places that I was called to use them. That really set me free!

Leaders have the freedom to choose how they will respond in every given situation, and my next speaking engagement was to be a great lesson in leadership. An audience in excess of 30,000 people on the other side of the world was to be a “crowning glory”, both professionally and financially. Upon arrival, however, we found that what we were scheduled to do was far different to what we had previously agreed.

We had a choice: would we serve or would we fight? Personal integrity told us we should serve but our bank balance demanded otherwise. (How often in leadership does it appear to all come down to the bottom line?).

Leadership is about choosing what’s right, not about what is necessarily profitable. We chose to serve. Leadership is about making right choices when the rest of the world would have you go the other way. Leaders don’t follow the crowd, they lead the crowd! Money can’t buy what a great leader earns in respect, opportunity and destiny. And money can’t buy peace of mind. Leaders leave a legacy. What are you leaving behind?

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