As I created an upcoming social media post, I realized Tuesday, May 4, is National Teacher’s Day in the United States. Growing up, teachers had a lifelong impact on my perspective.

Like my second-grade teacher, Miss Eshpeter, who taught me to be myself and help me overcome some serious confidence issues from a challenging first grade (a story for another day).

My sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Dick, showed me that my negative thinking about math was holding me back and causing me to fail. That was one of the most annoying lessons because I had to start paying attention (and learning) in math class.

Both those teachers taught me lessons that I still use today, 40 years later.

Teachers are, by definition, leaders. They lead the classroom, the students, reinforce messages, and challenge us. All of these things are part of leadership.

But, you don’t have to be in front of a classroom, a boardroom, or even on a stage in front of 10,000 people to be a leader. Your title does not make you a leader. Your job doesn’t either.

What makes you a leader? Action.

The actions you take show who you are as a person and as a leader.

The actions you take show who you are as a person and as a leader. 

What happens when an opportunity to lead appears in your life? What actions do you take? You may not even realize these action opportunities happened! 

  • Your spouse is exhausted and usually makes dinner. Leadership action: you make dinner (or at least order take-out). 
  • While going for a walk, you notice flyers and newspapers strewn on the ground. Leadership action: pick up the trash. Even bigger leadership action: arrange a clean-up of the neighborhood day with volunteers. 
  • You have regularly scheduled sessions with your clients, but you know one of them is struggling with their goals. Leadership action: send a quick message of support to that client. 

The next level of leadership comes with accountability. Accountability is a massive opportunity for leadership. How can we show leadership by being accountable? 

  • When we make a mistake, own it. Acknowledge it, apologize if you caused pain to others, and learn from it. 
  • Stay accountable to yourself. Creating goals is great, but we have to follow through with them. Keeping yourself on track by staying accountable helps you move forward in achieving your goals.
  • Stay accountable to your family and friends. Of course, living with chronic illness means that sometimes plans get canceled or modified. Wherever possible, if you say you’re going to do something with or for a friend, do it
  • Stay accountable to your business and clients. Especially with your clients, it bears repeating, if you say you’re going to do something, do it. Staying accountable to your business is about showing up in your business, not doing busywork, but working on your business to maintain or grow if that’s what you want to do. 

What if you say you’re going to do something but you can’t, or you’re not going to make that deadline? Being accountable doesn’t mean that you beat yourself up with negative self-talk or harm your physical or mental well-being by overextending your energy. If you’re not able to follow through, communicate with the people affected by what’s happening.

  • Accept help if they offer it.
  • Ask for help if it makes sense. 
  • Be fair and realistic with yourself. 
  • Asses where things went wrong: was it something that you procrastinated about, and that’s why you’re not able to complete it? Did you overextend yourself? Were there too many unavoidable obstacles?

Accountability and actions are what make leaders have followers. When we lead in our everyday lives, it’s a natural part of your daily life and attracts people to you. 

Stop worrying about your title, meeting other people’s expectations. Lead in ways that make sense to you. We all have the opportunity to lead; it’s simply a matter of how we choose to handle those opportunities. 

How will you take leadership actions today? 

Want more inspiration? Join the Step, Step, Pick Facebook group.