According to Peter Northouse, leadership is, “A process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal” (Northhouse, 2018, p 5). As I think about this definition, I couldn’t agree more. Often times people think of leadership as a position of power, however, in many group the true leader isn’t the person receiving the biggest paycheck or who has their name on the door. According to Northhouse, true leadership ability comes from personal power, “derived from being seen as likeable and knowledgeable” (Northouse, 2018, p 11). I believe that many of the most influential leaders are not those that are searching for the limelight, but those that get to know others, listen, and connect with the people that desire to follow them.
Every fall, I coach a girls youth soccer team and at the start of the season we talked about leadership. As the coach, I expressed that we would be having team captain elections, and anyone interested needed to write a speech to the team on “why they would be a great captain”. Three of the thirteen wrote speeches and the team decided they would do an anonymous vote. When we announced the captains, I could tell that one of the girls Claire, was very sad she wasn’t elected. When I pulled her aside to talk about it, she expressed that she was disappointed. As we talked through her feelings I shared with her John Maxwell’s saying, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”. We then talked about how leaders aren’t just the people with the job title. As a member of the team, she could lead in other ways.
Though Claire is only 9, she is a thinker. As days passed, we talked about different ways she can use her personal strengths to lead and influence the team. At one of our practices, she noticed that one of her teammates was having a problem keeping her shoes tied. During a water break, I noticed that Claire pulled her aside to show her how to tie her shoelaces tightly and double knot them. While she was helping her tie the laces, she remembered that she had a similar problem because the laces weren’t long enough to hold the knot tight. Claire expressed, “I have learned that if you take the laces out of one set of holes, it gives you more lace and makes it easier to tie.” She helped her teammate tie her shoes tightly, and then the two girls got water and returned back to practice.
At the end of practice, I pulled Claire aside and expressed how proud I was as her coach. I shared with her that the type of leadership she displayed is known as servant leadership. I said, “If you continue to add value to your team member in a servant manner as you did with Ananya, teaching her how to tie her shoes, you will soon have more influence over the team than the captains”. She agreed that though she wasn’t a leader by title, she could still lead and be part of the team.
I think that it is important that people understand the power of influence. Though you do not have the job title, you can continually influence a group of people. In Claire’s group, it was her circle of teammates but in the business world, it could be a lot more people.
Northouse (2018) - Introduction - chapter 1.