• Barb Mayfield

Who is a leader? Everyone.


Paper cut-outs of faces in varying skin tones

If someone asked you, “Are you a leader?” How would you respond?

a) Yes, always

b) No, never

c) Sometimes, it depends


Many people don’t think of themselves as leaders, ever. They will answer b. Many others think they are leaders only in specific situations. They will answer c. These responses of “no, never” or “sometimes, it depends” limit the definition of a leader.


Let’s take a closer look at what it means to be a leader and who fills that role.


What is a leader?

If we look up leader or leadership in a dictionary, the definition will include words and phrases such as being in charge, guiding, organizing, influencing, and directing others.

Although this definition likely conjures up the image of the general of an army, an orchestra conductor, or a coach directing team plays, would you agree that those who lead others do not have to be officially in charge or have a position of power?


Consider how newborn babies lead their parents to feed, change, or comfort them. They can’t even speak, but they can lead. And a wise parent follows their lead.


When and where do we lead?

When we influence the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others, we are leading.

We ALL lead, everywhere, all the time. We lead in many ways: with words, with silence, with nonverbal cues, with actions.

  • A student makes a confused expression, which leads the teacher to provide clarity and direction.

  • A coworker shows a colleague how to perform a task.

  • A stranger on the street helps a tourist read the bus schedule.

None of these people probably think of themselves as leaders, and yet they are.


Who is a leader?

Author, speaker, and leadership consultant, Chris Lowney, answers this way:

“Everyone is a leader, and everyone is leading all the time – sometimes in immediate, dramatic and obvious ways, more often in subtle, hard-to-measure ways, but leading nonetheless.”


I agree – everyone is a leader – do you?


If we believe we are all leaders and are constantly leading, that can motivate us to take our leadership responsibility seriously and make certain our influence is a positive one.


How do we lead?

Seemingly small things can have big results. Consider how a kind word or smile can turn around a negative situation, how encouragement can motivate others to take positive action, how listening well and responding with empathy can help others lead from within, and how demonstrating courage leads others to do the same.


Because the opposite is also true, lead yourself and others in positive directions.


What does it take to lead?

Leading does not require a title or a degree, only a willingness to make a difference. Wherever you are and whoever you are with, seek to lead with wisdom, respect, and kindness. Before speaking or acting, recognize what we say and do influences others, for better or worse.


To lead well requires self-awareness and empathy, curiosity and a willingness to learn, the desire and ability to clearly and compellingly communicate, and the initiative to step up. Get a copy of my 5 communication tips for leaders.


Who is a leader? Everyone.


If you think you’re not a leader, think again.


“Everyone is a leader because everyone influences someone.” ~ John C. Maxwell


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