This blog post is the third in a five-part series focused on the topic of leadership. In my previous posts, I talked about what leadership is as well as who can be a leader. In this post, I will focus on the when and where of leadership. The questions I will answer are two-fold:
- When can someone be a leader?
- Where can someone be a leader?
Let’s start with the first question – the “when” of leadership. You are likely familiar with the saying that “there is no time like the present moment.” I certainly believe that to be true with regard to leadership. If leadership is the act of leading others, then only when someone seizes the moment are they truly being a leader. Leadership is not a future-oriented stance or action. Leadership takes place in the moment. This moment. Right now. As much as we may want to, we cannot lead in the past, nor can we lead in the future. We can only lead right now, in this moment.
This means that even if we weren’t leaders in the past, we can be leaders now. We also don’t have to wait for a future date or time to lead. We just have to decide to lead and engage in the act of leading others. When we procrastinate and promise to lead “later” or “tomorrow” then unfortunately the future will look a lot more like today, meaning later or tomorrow never comes because it’s a moving target. Our point of power, what I sometimes call the point of creation, is in this present moment: not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, right now. If, through our leadership and the leadership of other people, we can execute and perform in this moment, then we can do the same in the next moment. And then the next moment. Again, and again and again, from one moment to the next. The present moment (the now) is when, and only when, someone can be a leader.
Now let’s turn our attention to the “where” of leadership. Fortunately, in leadership, the “when” as well as the “where” have less to do with fixed criteria and everything to do with mindset. If a person can only lead in this moment (“when”) then it matters not where they are as long as they are engaged in the act of leading. I argue that it doesn’t matter where they are because there is no specific “where” that we need to be: not at a podium, or behind a desk, or in a conference room. We can lead wherever we happen to be. In fact, the only place where we can lead is right where we are. And in leading from where we are, our leadership can cause positive impact elsewhere. As Madeleine Albright said, “What matters anywhere, matters everywhere.”
The knowledge that the when and where of leadership are not external factors imposed on us can sometimes be overwhelming. “Where” and “when” can be convenient “if only” excuses (“If only I had been promoted, I would have stepped into a leadership role”) when we don’t feel confident in fully engaging in leadership. When we are faced with the truth that neither the where nor the when are actually holding us back, it becomes possible for us to be leaders right here, right now.
Rather than be intimidated by this possibility, we can embrace it. We can change how we think about leadership so that we are looking for opportunities to be leaders every day, no matter where we are. And wouldn’t you know it – here we are.