By Kent Ingle
Change doesn’t take place unless someone acts. Having been a leader in a variety of settings from business to nonprofits and now to education, I can safely say that more people like to talk a big game when it comes to change than to do the work necessary to make the change true. The most important test of a leader’s resolve is if he or she is willing to act on their ideas.
Michael Jordan had to step onto the basketball court. Arnold Palmer had to step up to the tee. And Michael Phelps had to get in the water. All three of these men were athletes. They knew the games they played backward and forward. They carefully studied what it would take to be successful in their respective areas. But what made them great was not what was in their head, comments, or suggestions. What made them great was their decision to get in the game and play.
One of the saddest commentaries I encounter is when I listen to someone talk about the life they want to live in contrast to the life they are living. That’s not to say we shouldn’t think big, strive for more, and desire growth and expansion of our leadership and influence over time. All that is true. But when your desire to make a change overwhelms your willingness to see the change through, there is little hope to resolve the discontent living within you.
If You Never Lead, You’ll Never Be a Leader
You can wait your entire life to be chosen by someone else to fill a role, hold a title, or sit at the end of a boardroom table. Or you can choose yourself. When I was 18, I was a sports broadcaster in one of the most competitive markets in the country. And I was only 18! I wasn’t there simply because I was talented. I was in that seat because I wanted it, and I acted to make it true. That mindset has led to a lifetime of leadership which continues to grow and expand at every turn.
Little of what is true in my life today would, in fact, be true had I waited on someone else to give me the next “big opportunity.” I’d still be waiting in the wings hoping the next person up on deck would be me. I didn’t wait to act; instead, I acted. And that’s the decision you must make for yourself.
Any Old Excuse Will Do
There will always be an excuse within reach. And there will always be someone around you willing to confirm your excuse as valid:
· “I don’t have enough money.”
· “I don’t have the right education.”
· “I don’t know the right people.”
· “I don’t live in the right city.”
Excuses are really ways in which people let themselves off the hook for the responsibility they should act. If divine design is true, then you have a purpose you must fulfill in the world. And that purpose is unique and specific to you. If you don’t make good on that purpose, you will miss out on the adventure that was intended to be yours.
If this is you, then let me encourage you to release yourself from the self-doubt and hesitation that is holding you back. I need you to lead, and so do the people around you. Don’t wait to act. Take a step forward because that is when you’ll learn the most about yourself.
10 Ways You Can Start Leading Today
1. Educate yourself. While I’m a fan of the classroom, change makers are always on the hunt for what they don’t know yet.
2. Take a stand. Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission to lead. Act today.
3. Practice self-reflection. Leaders are driving by something deep within them. You need to get and stay in touch with that personal power.
4. Learn how to be a great beginner. The risk as you grow and learn is you stop approaching life with the insatiable curiosity that allows you to see what isn’t true yet but should be.
5. Write down your goals. It’s not enough to think them. Science has proven that when you put your goals on paper, you’re much more likely to fulfill them.
6. Find a mentor. Don’t try to navigate life alone.
7. Take the risk. No leader ever feels fully prepared for what is ahead. If you did, you wouldn’t be leading.
8. Commit to the outcome, not the process. The process will guide you, but don’t let it overshadow the outcome you want to achieve or the goal you want to accomplish.
9. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Don’t expect to get it right the first time—or even the second or third time. Just don’t stop moving forward.
10. Study great leaders. Read about leaders in history. Biographies are always great options. Learn from current leaders. Observe and model them.
None of the things listed above are out of your reach. The only think keeping you back from leading right where you are today is you. It’s time for you to decide: Will you let the doubts, questions, and hesitations within you today hold you back from the leader you want to become tomorrow? Only you can answer that question. And your answer will not be in your words, but in the life you choose to live.
Leadership is available to everyone. The only caveat is you must say yes.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the president of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. For more leadership content, check out KentIngle.com.