I’m one of those people who when it comes to trying something new, I far prefer to watch somebody else do it first. It’s not that I won’t do new things, it’s just that I’m much more comfortable watching first. I’m the baby in the family. My big brother and sister showed me how to do everything!
By the time I was six I had my system down; all I had to do was watch the show. First, I’d watch the kids, then I’d watch to see how the grown-ups would react. Based on my observations, I would pick and choose what or what NOT to do. I had mastered the art of following.
On a typical Saturday afternoon you’d find my brother Mark sitting cross legged on the living room floor with an encyclopedia in his lap. My parents were so proud when he made his way up to volume 11 J-K. Watching the show I deduced that being hungry for knowledge is a good thing. That’s how my brother influenced me.
When my big cousin Ronnie had to wash his mouth out with soap (watching the show), I deduced that swearing is to be avoided. That’s how his Mother, my Aunt Lea, influenced me!
And because my brother, sister and I always kept our rooms clean, never argued and did everything our parents told us to do…
After dinner one night, my Mom brought out desert. It was one of those unlabeled white boxes that only the best hand dipped chocolates are kept in. As she opened the box, we saw the most incredible dark chocolate covered marshmallows ever! She dished out our dessert and we immediately took a bite. Except, Mom fed us unsweetened chocolate poured over cotton balls!
….My Mom had a history of deflecting her stress with humor. That’s how she influenced me.
My sister Leslie would complain, “Mom, Dad, Diane’s copy-catting me.” She was aware of her influence… the rest of the family unaware.
Leadership at its most basic level is an act of influence. As long as there are people around, people will be influenced by you. What do they see you doing? How are you being?
Recently I was at a hotel swimming pool where there were no designated lanes for lap swimming. So, I went to one edge of the swimming pool to swim laps. After a few laps, two women came swimming over and called out, “OK! You’ve influenced us!” and they started doing laps along with me. That’s quiet leadership by chance.
My father-in-law had a love/hate relationship with fixing cars. When things went wrong, tools and expletives would start flying. My husband seems to have been influenced by his Dad and guess what? Now my son has his moments under the car! This is also quiet leadership by chance.
For me, leadership has become an acquired taste, just like oysters or parenting. I had to learn how to take ownership of my leadership. I wasn’t a natural like my sister and I learned early on that people can be leaders without them even knowing it.
So, I’ve embraced the idea of being responsible for my quiet leadership. You could call it being self-conscious in a good way. You could call it leading by example. You could call it walking the walk. The question is, how can you knowingly take advantage of quiet leadership and be influential?