Do a Google search on the word “leader” and then click on Images and many of your results will show a man in a business suit, or a clip-art character positioned above or in front of everyone else. The stereotypical image of a leader is someone in charge of the business.
To help break that stereotype and broaden the image, here is an exercise for you to try. When you are in public look at each person you encounter and think to yourself, “There’s a leader.” “There’s a leader.” You don’t need to get creepy about it. Don’t stare at people or point. Don’t walk up to them and say, “You’re a leader.” Just quietly consider each person you see as a leader.
Anyone can be a leader. And everyone should be a leader, prepared to lead when the moment calls on them to do so. Therefore the true image of a leader is as diverse as the entire world’s population. A leader can look like anyone anywhere.
Don’t forget to look at yourself. Look in the mirror or take a selfie and say, “Yes, there’s a leader.” Even those who are most confident in their leadership need a reminder once in a while.
More challenging is to look at someone you disagree with and see them as a leader. Even if you have made a personal choice yourself not to follow them consider the influence they may have on others. The image of a leader may not always be a pleasant one for us.
I challenge you to take on this exercise in a variety of places, at work, at school, at home, at the mall, driving down the street. When you’re in a presentation look at the person in business attire at the podium and think, “There’s a leader.” Then turn around and look at the young guy in jeans in the back of the room and think, “There’s a leader.” Try it with the people you see on TV or with the avatars that float through your social media stream. “There’s a leader.” It shouldn’t take long to raise awareness that a leader can look like anyone.
The business world is just one facet of leadership. Open up to the full spectrum. Open your eyes, open your mind and start seeing leaders.
Image courtesy of Chatchai Somwat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net