Greatness, generally speaking, is an unusual quantity of a usual quality grafted upon a common man.
~ William Allen White
Chills go up my spine when I am told that greatness cannot be achieved by just anyone or not everyone can be a leader. My internal response is always, “Who says?” Instead, I bite my tongue and explain that I have dedicated my life’s work to creating a new view of leadership that will provide fertile ground for all children to thrive by empowering the leader within everyone.
Simply put, the root of the word leadership is lead; meaning to guide and direct. A leader is someone or something that guides and directs, and leadership is the action a leader takes.
It’s true some people don’t demonstrate great leadership or any qualities that we think of as leadership. However, we are the one constant guide directing our life. When we don’t express our true leadership we are either going in the wrong direction or abdicating the responsibility for our life to someone else or circumstance.
There are plenty of celebrity “greats” in the entertainment, sports, and political fields that have fallen from grace for a lack of personal leadership skills and responsibility. With all the outward appearances, it’s quite possible they have yet to experience the true leader within.
Nonetheless, the kind of leadership I am referring to is the personal kind that leads to sprouting greatness.
Fortunately, there is a new light shed on the age-old debate of nature versus nurture. The University of Oregon Brain Development Lab now has evidence-based science that shows “virtually every aspect of the development of the human brain, and the sensory, cognitive, social and emotional skills that it supports, is shaped by experience (i.e. input from the environment).” Source: changingbrains.org
I do agree that in some fields, regardless of how much you practice, you may not achieve greatness when you lack an innate talent. For example, I love to sing, but I have no innate gift, and it is doubtful I would ever be considered a great singer, except maybe by my granddaughter when we sing together off-key. Now that, she is three, even she may be able to differentiate my lack of talent in this arena.
Recently while singing together, she said, “Grandma, stop.” I chuckled and allowed her to sing alone to the rest of the song. It could be because I was singing off-key or she enjoyed hearing just her own voice, or maybe she just wanted to be performing for me. Regardless, I wouldn’t dream of telling my granddaughter she is not a great singer, and no doubt she was directing me at that moment.
In an article, What Makes Leaders GREAT, author Tricia Bisoux stated, “According to business educators, the deeper they delve into what makes great leaders, the more they realize that true leadership cannot be transmitted to students as a neat bundle of skills or delivered via a series of guest lecturers and discussions. So says Terry Pearce, author of Leading Out Loud and instructor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley and the London School of Business. True leadership, he emphasizes, must be experienced, not taught.”
Greatness as well is not just a matter of possessing some phenomenal talent that achieves notoriety or gaining some skill; it is a matter of achieving a personal best as a human being.
The definition of great, as it relates to persons, is markedly superior or noble in character. The character qualities of greatness, as well as great leadership, are available to everyone as a way of BEING:
- Gracious – courteous and kind
- Respectful – polite and civil
- Empathetic –compassionate and warm
- Accountable – responsible and answerable
- Trustworthy – reliable and dependable
- Neighborly – amiable and friendly
- Extraordinary – exceptional and unique
- Sincere – genuine and heartfelt
- Serene – calm and composed
What then makes a great boss, teacher, parent, or grandparent? It is who they are being and what you see and experience when you are around them. That is because leadership and greatness go hand-in-hand.
Therefore, one can achieve greatness in some career or hobby, but whether one chooses to BE a great person is the key.
Sowing these qualities into your everyday life will afford you the opportunity of being a great person and leader, which is especially important for children around you. As the science now shows, in fertile ground a child’s brain will emulate the experience. The same is true of rocky soil, but it need not be that way, when you sow the seeds of personal GREATNESS making leadership assessable to everyone.
There is no greater gift for all those around you than to experience the love, joy and power of your true leadership.
Debra J. Slover is an award winning author and founder of the Leadership Garden® Legacy. Her goal is to seed and nurture personal leadership at home, in school, the community, and workplace through the U.N.I.Q.U.E. series of youth and adult leadership empowerment books. An educator, speaker, coach, and philanthropist advocating for the creation of positive climates to practice leadership, her expertise stems from 37 years empowering youth and adult leadership in school and community environments. A mother of five/grandmother of seven, she resides with her husband in Albany, Oregon. Visit: www.LeadershipGardenLegacy.com