Friday, April 1, 2016

Leading Everyday - Drew Dudley TEDx

Here's a video I know that we've shared before, but it's been a few years and I wanted to put a new spin on it.

Sometimes in wildland fire we forget that leadership isn't strictly positional.  It's all too easy to get sucked into the traditional mindset that Leadership (with a capital "L") is mostly related to your position and your job, and not your everyday, mundane actions.  Being a leader is about running a program, supervising a crew, or leading a squad, or so the story goes.  We tell people to "step up and be a leader," and typically make a big deal about who's in charge.

It's a shame in some ways that leadership has become such a "big deal," as it sometimes becomes something we don't think we can fit in our daily routines.  It becomes something we switch on and off when we need to, when we're in "leadership" roles, or when it's expected of us.  I've even heard coworkers say they don't want to "do leadership" because it sounds like a lot of extra work.  But what if it wasn't that way?

Leadership is about influence, and we have enormous potential to be influential every day, without making a extra effort to be a "Leader." As pointed out in the video, it's possible that our everyday actions can change someone's life for better, or worse, and we might not even remember it.  Think back in your own fire career, and think of the small actions of others that seemed large to you... I know I've had a lot of those moments, when someone took a moment to help with a problem I was having, or encouraged me to take that next step, whatever it was.  Many small actions add up, especially over the course of ten or twenty years.

If we step back and think of this everyday aspect of leadership, suddenly we're all leaders, and we're all capable of contributing to making a better organization, and a better crew, forest, unit, or whatever.  Think of the small ways that you can be a leader every day. Take a moment to mentor the new guy on the crew instead making life harder. Say a kind word when you pass a coworker who's working hard on a project, or even jump in and offer to lend a hand for a few minutes.  Treat those around you with the respect you want to be treated with, and they'll remember.  Pass on small acts of leadership kindness - pay it forward.

I'm an introverted person - I've written about it before here - and everyday leadership is something that introverts like me can practice pretty easily.  As an introvert, I'm really good at noticing and acting on small things, the little details, and those small things are crucial to the hundreds and thousands of little actions that make up everyday leadership.  I know that I personally feel more satisfaction from doing the little things right in the background, unnoticed, than when I do the "big" things right.  Maybe you, or some of those you work with, feel the same.

Leadership doesn't have to be a big production in and of itself; it can be a small part of your everyday life.  Maybe it already is. Just doing the little things right, every day, can have a huge influence on those around you.  Think of everyday leadership, doing those little things, as building a foundation that will support you when you do "step up" into those Leadership (with a capital "L") roles, whether it's long term or just for an hour or a day.  By focusing on our everyday actions we can not only set ourselves up for success, but enable those around us to be successful as well, and to me, that's an important part of being a leader, no matter your position.

Until next time...

Justin Vernon is a regular guest contributor on our blog. Justin works for the United States Forest Service and is a member of the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee as the steward of the Professional Reading Program. Check out his Chasing Fire blog. All expressions are those of the author.

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