In recent posts, here, here and here, I’ve written about the importance of our interactions with people. These skills are not technological, but interpersonal. It isn’t about writing the perfect email. It is, instead, about how we interact directly with people.
The issue that confronts us is not knowing what to say to a stranger. We end up falling back on trying to impress someone with stories that show that we are important people. This approach only alienates us from the person we are trying to get to know.
The key to establishing relationships of impact is in being authentic. I read somewhere recently that authenticity is out, identifying with social movements is in. I disagree. They are not the same thing. Authenticity is being to true ourselves, of living our values, our purpose and the impact that we want to have. It is best described in a story. Not just a story that we tell others, but one that we tell ourselves to remind us of who we are and what matters to us. This is how our focus on impact is nurtured and solidified in our experience.
When I wrote the Circle of Impact: Taking Personal Initiative To Ignite Change, I began the book with a description of a dream that I had. It is a true story. Through the dream, I realized that every person may have within them a desire to be a person of impact. However, it may never be clear to them until they can describe it in a story. Tell a story and we can see the impact.
If you have a story to tell about some experience of making a difference that matters, I would love to hear from you. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, here’s the preface. May it inspire you to be the person of your dreams.
As the idea of this book was forming in my mind, I had a dream about being thrust into a situation of fear.
I’m in a cab. Not sure where I am going. The vehicle stops. I am greeted by a young woman who says, “We’ve been waiting on you. You are up next.” She escorts me into a large auditorium.
I ask her, “What am I doing here?” She says, “You are the next presenter.”
“What? I can’t be. I’m not prepared. Who are these people? Why are they here? Why I am here? What am I supposed to say?”
“Just follow me to the stage.” I walk up onto the platform. I turn and face the audience. I’m shaking. I stand there for what seems like an eternity. I’m looking out at several thousand people, and they at me. The auditorium is quiet. I look into their faces. Some are smiling. Some look worried. I begin to speak.
“Many of you sitting out there today wonder what it is like to stand here in front of all of you. It is frightening. Five minutes ago, I had no idea that I would be standing here in front of you.
“If you were in my shoes, what would you do? Run? For some reason, I don’t feel I can run away from this.
“All I can tell you is that somewhere down deep inside of us is a story that has brought each of us to this stage of our lives. Our stories help us to see that there is some desire within us that defines our lives. It helps us to see that for our story to reach its completion that we must be willing to give ourselves to this story.
“All you have to do, as I am doing right now, is to tell that story as it lives in you. Let me tell you my story about what matters to me and is now the focus of my life and work.”
I relax a moment, take a deep breath, and begin to tell them about who I am and what is important to me.
“I am a writer, a speaker, a coach, a father, a lover of art, books, music, film, and travel. I am a guy who is curious about everything. I want to make sense of a world that doesn’t make much sense.
“I am a guy who believes in people so that they can believe in themselves.
“I believe in people because I see in them untapped, unrealized, undeveloped potential. Along with that, I see that much of the conflict, unhappiness, and pain that we experience is because we have never found that right path to fulfilling our potential.
“I believe that we have desires within us, where we long for meaning and purpose.
“If we were to practically connect with them, our lives and the lives of others would change for the better.
“I am not an idealist. I am a positive realist. I know that life can be hard, hurtful, and disappointing. If we don’t manage our expectations, we can easily be beat down so that we never try to fulfill the desires that form the core of who we are.
“I am a leader for leaders. I care about and support people who lead from the roles that they have within their organizations and in society at large. For many of us, the choice of organizational leadership is a lonely journey. If this is your experience, I want to journey beside you in your desire to lead your people and organization.
“I see the world of leadership differently than most people. I don’t see leadership as a title or a role in an organization. Instead, it is about how people function in their lives, about the difference they can make. I don’t divide the world up into leaders and followers. We need to know how to be both. Leadership isn’t a position of authority, but of personal responsibility. It is best practiced in a social setting where people share the responsibility for leadership. I believe we live in a leadership-starved world, and the future belongs to leader-rich organizations and societies.
“I believe the world of leadership is in crisis and conflict. The term ‘leadership’ has come to define a small, elite, entitled segment of the world’s population. It has been institutionalized in organizations that make access to power and resources more difficult. People tell me that they don’t want to be called a leader because of this institutional bias. This must change.
“I believe that anyone, regardless of who they are, where they come from, the pedigree of their education or total lack of it, can lead by taking initiative to create impact. A person isn’t a leader because they take action. It is the character of their actions that defines them as a leader. Character is defined by why you lead and how you go about it. Leadership is defined by the difference you make that matters.
“Let me ask you a simple question.
“Today, at this point in your life, what do you want to change? What is that one thing that has a hold on you, that won’t let go, because it’s calling you to do something about it? What’s stopping you from doing something about it today?
“The first great obstacle to overcome is in our self-perception of what is possible.
“I believe that there is only one measure for leadership. What changes because of you doing something? Without change, there is no impact, and impact is the core measure of leadership. Impact is change. Creating that impact is what leadership is all about.
“I believe that all leadership begins with personal initiative, a decision an individual makes to create impact.
“The practice of leadership is a relational one. We don’t lead by ourselves, but with one another. It has always been this way.
“I believe that we are in a transition in human history that is unprecedented. The way societies and organizations have developed over the past two millennia has run its course. With the advent of the digital age, we now have the tools, knowledge, and resources to act upon our desires to create, innovate, and collaborate in ways not available to anyone before now.
“Part of this transition is a transformation of human purpose. Do we define ourselves by the roles that we serve in the institutions? Or, do we define ourselves by the impact that we seek to create through those roles?
“This transformation has everything to do with how we give ourselves to one another, and the difference that makes. It is about how we live together, work together, change together, and lead together. It is not about what I want to have, but rather what we can create together.
“I believe all growth starts small. So, we start small. Small initiatives. Small changes. Small steps of building relationships of shared responsibility, beginning locally and extending globally. From those small steps, momentum grows, and the speed of change and the impact that follows accelerates.”
Then I wake from my dream. I’m still standing on the stage. But now the audience of thousands is standing with me.
Are you of one of those who knows that there is something about you that has yet to be discovered, calling you out to change your life by changing other people’s lives?
Join me in this journey, and may you wake from your own dream to discover that there is a life of impact waiting to be created.