Leaders have a “look.” It’s the title they hold, the command they have with others, how they work a crowd, or that they are simply at ease when making a tough decision. We know when we’re in the presence of a strong leader.
But there are unlikely leaders in your organization that are providing quiet, but significant guidance, inspiration, or influence to those they work with. The problem is that we undervalue the impact of those that aren’t in traditional leadership positions. And we overlook the possibility of leadership capacity by those that don’t have the “look” that we’re accustomed to.
Marty, the charming and commanding Mount Washington Observatory mascot (or should that be mascat), is just that type of leader. As the only permanent resident atop the summit of Mount Washington, he is clear about his role of King of the Mountain. He’s not arrogant. He’s confident. He knows what he wants and how to get it. It is unmistakable about where he wants to go or when he wants something; he provides direction in his authoritative way. But he is just as at ease displaying compassion and playfulness. These key leadership traits came naturally for him.
But who in their right mind would call a cat a leader? That would be ludicrous to some people. Yet, why not? The dictionary definition of leader is someone who ‘guides, leads, or inspires.’ Marty sure did that and more. It’s not just because he’s cute, either. Not everyone likes cats. Marty knows that. And he could care less — just like a strong leader realizes that he can’t please everyone all the time. Regardless of how someone feels about him, he goes about being who he is, true to himself and lets others follow along. And they do. They understand his power.
The brave men and women who serve in our military provide another example for us. We are grateful for the talented and distinguished generals and commanders in our armed forces throughout history, including present day. We need them. Yet, there are many, many more individuals that we don’t know about, who have served in quiet and profound ways. They save lives, they fight for the ideals that our country stands for, providing direction and leadership in their everyday work. We need them, too. And we thank them on this Memorial Day.
Effective leaders can come from any place within the organization. They don’t need a corner office or a fancy title. They create results when they bring their authentic self to others. Individuals who understand their strengths and natural work style can more easily provide effective leadership. Marty knows that. And so does everyone who knows Marty.
Our workplaces can be so much more by encouraging and recognizing all leaders, especially those from unlikely places.
Who are the unlikely leaders in your organization? In what ways have you expressed your gratitude?