Four Challenges For Everyday Leaders

Imagine two people sitting across from each other. They are making eye contact and their hands are up, gliding slowly through the air. They appear to be mimicking each other. One of them – you can’t tell which – is leading the other. The facilitator tells them to switch leaders, and just like that, they seamlessly switch. Their movements change a bit, yet they are still moving together. 

The facilitator continues to tell them to switch, switch, switch, and switch again so rapidly that no one – not even the two participants – can tell who is leading and who is following anymore. They are moving as one – both leading and following each other.

Everyday Leadership

In this back and white photo a two people and the buildings behind them are reflected in a rain puddle on the street.
Photo by Michael Gaida on Pixabay

This improv mirroring exercise is a great illustration of how I define everyday leadership – whether it’s at the office, in the community, or at home. To me, everyday leadership is about being in relationship with the other people on your team (or in your family). Sometimes you are stepping up and engaging your skills in the moment as a leader, and sometimes you are stepping back and letting someone else’s skills and ideas shine. And sometimes you can be so in sync with your team, that the leadership becomes fluid.

Transformational Leadership and the “4 I’s”

While working on a podcast episode for “Practicing Connection in a Complex World,” I became acquainted with transformational leadership theory, particularly the “4 I’s” of Idealized Influence, Inspirational Motivation, Intellectual Stimulation, and Individualized Consideration. While I am only just beginning to understand this theory, I started to think of each of the 4 I’s as challenges to motivate us toward leading in ways that are more human-centered.

Some of these challenges may come easier to you than others. But if you’re intentional about focusing on all of them, you’ll be well on your way to being in-sync with the everyday leaders on your team (hint: that’s everyone!). 

Challenge #1

Idealized Influence. What do you expect from others around you, in your team, or in your organization?

This element of transformational leadership challenges you to model the behavior you expect from others. Work and live with integrity, and it can build trust and inspire others to do the same.

Challenge #2

Inspirational Motivation. Do you have a vision for where you’re going in your work? Can you connect the work your team does to meaningful outcomes, the big picture you are hoping to make in the world? Finally, can you communicate your vision clearly and in a way that is meaningful to your team?

Inspirational Motivation challenges you to identify a vision and learn to communicate about it in a way that is compelling and meaningful to the team, not just to you (or the organization). Do this well and your team will be motivated in their responsibilities and optimistic about your shared future. 

Challenge #3

Intellectual Stimulation. Does your team culture support safe-fails, or does it work hard to create fail-safe situations? Is creativity and independent thinking encouraged AND supported?

This element of transformational leadership challenges us to lead with a growth mindset, while cultivating one within our team. Asking questions and challenging assumptions is encouraged, as is taking risks and finding new ways to accomplish goals.

Challenge #4

Individualized Consideration. Are you aware of the needs of each individual on your team? Do you tend to those needs, to the extent that you are able?

Individualized Consideration is sometimes said to be the most important of the 4 I’s. It challenges you to practice empathy and serve as a supportive mentor or coach. It also challenges you to really understand the strengths of each person and honor what they bring to the team. Doing this well is just great relationship practice – it is validating and encourages the development of intrinsic motivation in your team.

As I continue to shape my views around connection and leadership, I’m finding that transformational leadership is one framework I can learn a lot from.  

If you want to know more about transformational leadership and relationships, check out the Practicing Connection in a Complex World podcast (available on iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher), and our interview with Ellie Sheldon about Transformational Leadership.

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