Date: November 28, 2022
Author: Ed Maggard, LeaderImpact Global
As a primary value of LeaderImpact, uncommon opportunities sometimes means the chance to do something as a leader that not many others get to do. It may mean taking advantage of a trip to another city to meet and encourage leaders in another cultural context. It may refer to the chance to grow in an area of need, or to connect with others who stimulate you to be better. One thing is always true. We rarely regret taking a chance on doing something new and challenging.
But, who provides those opportunities? Steven Covey, in his leadership classic 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, famously talked about three stages of growth. The first is dependence, where we are receiving what we need to survive and not giving much in return. Think of babies and how they are totally dependent on their parents for survival. The second stage is independence, where we learn to care for ourselves and are not so needy. The final stage is interdependence, where we begin to live in a symbiotic relationship of give and take. Our leadership journey is like that. Regrettably, some people never grow out of the first or second stage.
Becoming a leader of impact means being interdependent. Sure, we get to enjoy the benefits of being in community and receiving encouragement and counsel from others. And it also means we are taking the initiative to provide that growth and encouragement for others.
As a young leader in a large organization I was offered the chance to lead at a level that was scary to me. My supervisor expressed belief in me and challenged me to take responsibility for a large group of other leaders. As I grew in my own leadership ability I was able to pass on that encouragement and create opportunities for others.
One such leader was Tom. At a particularly rich time of opportunity in the US, post 9/11/2001, we had a ministry presence in New York City. We needed someone to move to the city for a year to give oversight as hundreds of volunteers came to offer hope and encouragement to those traumatized by these world-shaping events. As I talked through the needs with Tom, his response was, “When you figure out the question, the answer is yes.” This was interdependence at its finest. Tom was older than I, and had many years of successful organizational leadership on his resume. I had offered Tom an uncommon opportunity and he jumped at the chance. Later, Tom’s wife told me, with teary eyes, “Thank you for believing in my husband.”
As a leader of impact, how are you doing at creating uncommon opportunities for others? Think of other leaders in your organization or business. Who needs to be challenged to stretch their leadership abilities? Honestly, the answer is, we all do. What sort of things might challenge them? Perhaps you can offer someone the opportunity to speak publicly. This is often the most stressful thing in a leader’s responsibility. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said the only thing people fear more than dying is public speaking, so the only person at a funeral worse off than the corpse is the person doing the eulogy. The point is, challenging someone to do something meaningful, that is stretching for them, makes them a better leader. And, believing in people is life-giving to us as well.
Finally, another aspect of uncommon opportunities is the chance to do things in community. Think of your close circle of friends. What could you do together to make a difference? Get your friends, peers, or the key leaders in your organization together, and brainstorm some of the needs in your city. Ask each other the question, “What can we do about it?” Many significant things have been done simply because a few people were willing to challenge the status quo.
Uncommon opportunities. Take them when you get them, and create them for yourself and others. That’s what leaders of impact do.
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