The Full Power of "Leader"

In our quest to achieve goals, earn bonuses, and get promoted, we sometimes forget the full impact that comes attached to the title of “leader.” I was reminded of this fact in a clear fashion during a recent trip. Last Friday night/Saturday morning I took the red-eye from Los Angeles to Atlanta. Unfortunately, I was both unable to sleep and too tired to work. So I decided to watch a movie.

On the plane’s in-flight entertainment system I stumbled upon a movie about a father estranged from his son. For many decades they’d had zero contact. The father had hit a point in his life where he wanted to make amends for his absenteeism or at least attempt to be a better father than he’d been in the past.

The son wanted no part of it. He was hurt and angered by his father’s choice to not be a part of his life. He wasn’t interested in starting their father/son relationship 40 years after it should’ve begun.

In his first (and unannounced) visit to his son’s home, the son decided to kick his father off the property. As the son asked his father to leave, the father grasped at whatever he could to sooth his own soul. Hoping that he had not ruined his son’s life through his neglect, the father stood in the front yard of his son’s home and asked him, “Do you have a happy life?”

The son paused, quietly pondered, and began his response by saying, “I hate my boss.”

The Long Arm of the Leader

When asked a question about the whole of his life, the son started his answer by giving account of his relationship with the leader he followed at work. He could’ve started with anything. He could’ve begun by commenting about his marriage or being a father or his health, all of which were meaningful parts of the story. But instead, he started the summary of his life with what it felt like to be led each day. This is not an anomaly that can be chalked up to inaccurate fiction. This is Hollywood reflecting real life.

Most of us spend the lion’s share of our waking hours being led by someone. Because of this, our leaders hold extraordinary power. They fundamentally and tangibly impact our quality of life. If an executive team, group of middle managers, or a single administrator reports to you, you hold that same power in their lives.

Having the title of “leader” may feel commonplace to you at this point in your career, but that does nothing to lessen the impact that you have on those you lead. The power you have as a leader extends well beyond the context in which you lead. It leaks into the whole of your followers’ lives and indirectly impacts the lives of everyone they touch.

Opportunity Knocks

To forget just how influential leaders are is to forget one of the most valuable truths about leadership. To remember it and leverage that power well – with the best interests of others as a standard motivator in your leadership – is to create more fulfilling lives. This is true not only for those you lead, but for yourself as well.

You have tremendous power as a leader. It  doesn’t start and stop when people show up at work. It infiltrates the whole of their lives. Are you aware of it each day? Are you stewarding that power well?

photo credit: modified from 1A2F-piu-blu-2014-adriano-federico-fioretti-90 via photopin(license)

Share Your Thoughts: Have you had a moment, either as a leader or follower, where you clearly saw the full impact a leader has on the whole of someone's life? Tell us about it. We'd love to hear from you. Join the conversation by clicking here.Click here to receive free postings from Tim Spiker and The Aperio. As a thank you, you'll receive the first two chapters of The Only Leaders Worth Following: Why Some Leaders Succeed, Others Fail, and How the Quality of Our Lives Hangs in the Balance.