I attended Fairmont High School in Cape Town, but my experience of the people in my school was bitter-sweet. There were some people that were really amazing - these people encouraged me, loved me, cared for me, included me, and helped me. But there were also some who hurt me, left me out, called me crude names, and ultimately didn’t accept me. Throughout each season of my life, there have been people who have found themselves in one of these two camps.
I am sure you can resonate with having people in your life who are encouragers and people who are bullies. People who lift you up and people who bring you down. People who inspire you to be better and people who inspire you to be less than. In fact, I am sure that every person in the world can resonate with this reality. Why? Because every person has ‘power’ (also known as influence) and people influence each other every day. This means you shouldn’t ask yourself the question - do I have influence? Instead, the question you should ask yourself is – do I use my influence for bad or for good? To build up or to break down? To serve or to take?
If you want to be a great leader you have to do two things:
Realize your power.
Use your power for good.
REALIZE YOUR POWER
We can't fly like superman, but we can make someone laugh or cry. We can't smash walls like Hulk, but we can break someone’s heart or fill them with encouragement. You have the power to put your teacher/boss /colleague/friend/spouse in a good or a bad mood depending on your behavior. When you walk into a room, you can use your words to encourage those in that room, or you can use your words to bully or break people down. We can ALL do these things every day because we all have POWER!
I remember in Grade 11, I made the decision that I was going to greet every single person in the hallways of our school. Instead of ignoring them like I always used to do, I made the decision to say hello to anyone who walked past me in the hallways – even if it was someone older than me or someone I didn’t know. That day I made the decision to use my power for good.
All of us have power – even if it’s to varying degrees. That's why everyone is a leader. You don't have to be a good public speaker, you don't have to be pretty or muscular, you don't even have to be popular, the boss or CEO – you don’t have to hold any leadership title or position whatsoever. Everyone is leading all the time because everyone has power (influence)!
Do you have words?
Do you have money?
Do you have a skill or a gift?
Do you have food?
Do you interact with other people?
All of these things hold power, and if you don't realize your power, you won’t be able to use it for good!
USE YOUR POWER FOR GOOD
Everyone has power, so once you realize your power, you must decide to use your power for good. Not every leader makes this decision. Adolf Hitler is a good example of someone who realized his ‘power’ (and had a lot of it) but chose not to use it for good. History is filled with examples of people who had great power and decided to use it for good or bad/evil.
In fact, the concept of bullying is a matter of using your power for bad/evil. I remember when I was in High School, there was a girl in my grade who was very good at sports. But this girl preferred to cut her hair short and preferred to play sports with the guys at recess. Many times, I made fun of this girl and judged her because she was different. This was a time when I used my power for bad.
Bullying is speaking badly about someone, making fun of them, hurting them physically, or using your words to break people down. And in today’s world, adults often do this even more than kids in school.
To be a great leader, you have to make the daily (even hourly) decision to use your power for good.
In closing, ask yourself: how do people feel around me? Do people feel good about themselves, or do they feel bad about themselves? Do people feel encouraged by me or broken down? Do people feel inspired to use their power for good as they spend time with me?
This is the litmus test for you to determine how you are using your power. In essence, leadership is power. Everyone has power. Will you make the decision today and choose to use your power for good?