Everyday Leaders – Take Your Shot!

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3 quick stories of leadership with the same moral – and music – to the stories.
“Men and women on the street” was a favorite segment on my radio show Everyday Leadership.  Problem was none of my student assistants wanted to put a microphone in front of unsuspecting people in parks, at the mall, on that proverbial street.  Enter Carol Polan, a senior at Michigan State, who took the initiative. Like cliff-diving into chilly Lake Superior, she “just did it.”  
Story number two.  I took my students down a little history trip at the beginning of class. I explained to them how back in the day, it was impossible to share notes among many people. Oh, for a friend, you’d lend a treasured spiral notebook and they’d saunter off to the library where for 10 cents a page they could Xerox your notes.  It was a total pain. I point out to today’s students that they can share notes on their readings with the entire class, as easily as they can take notes in the first place. Select. Copy. Paste. Email. Done!  How many volunteers responded to my invitation to organize in this way?  One! Jas created a spreadsheet AND is organizing review sessions ahead of next week’s midterm.  And doing it better than I could.  
Story number three.   My MBA students have similarly carved up the syllabus readings that they’re going to summarize for each other. One student, Michael, did a marvelous summary, on a Google sheet, of a couple of chapters by Ron Heifetz. Michael included 3 hyperlinks to short articles which were – if not totally on point – then fascinating extensions of the points Heifetz had made.He went above and beyond.
The moral:  These were not leaders in the vernacular way that we talk about leaders. In other words they did not have authority. What they did have was what true leaders have – and that is initiative.
Conversely, from the standpoint of authority I wondered:  Why wouldn’t 79 people volunteer? If you only get one chance to make a first impression, what better way than to grab the tape recorder as Carol did and snag some interviews, build a Google sheet like Jas did and email your classmates, or take a routine way of summarizing readings and instead make it relevant and rich, as Michael did? 
It behooves us to think of opportunities to go 1st – literally:  to lead.   These 3 people simply raised the bar for others’ behavior and performance – including mine. want(ed) to work harder as a result of their initiative.  And of course they gained juice, clout, reputation by virtue of their initiative. Next time somebody asks for volunteers, it might be good to vault past your hesitance.  Yes, we are all busy, but a chance to elevate your game may not come your way again.  
Exercise initiative to lead with your best self, and if you don’t believe me, how about a little Eminem or Lin-Manuel Miranda? (Both songs linked below)
Message + Music = A Great Way to Start the Week:

Image result for eminem

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow

-Eminem, “Lose Yourself”

 

“I am not throwing away my shot
I am not throwing away my shot
Hey yo, I’m just like my country
I’m young, scrappy and hungry
And I’m not throwing away my shot.”

-Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs “My Shot” from Hamilton