When anyone takes a job, they must perform the duties of that job, or they won’t have it for long. How they perform those duties matters, but at the end of the day, that fact that they did perform their duties matters most. That’s what we’ll call “taking care of business.”
When leaders take care of business, they influence those around them. That is one of the definitions of leadership – influence. So if we do our work, and it affects others around us, we are leaders, for better or worse. If a garbage collector consistently picks up the trash on time, without hitting the trash can and waking the neighborhood, returns the trash can to the proper place, and leaves all the trash in the truck instead of on the sidewalk or stuck to the can, that sets an example by just a basic fulfillment of duty. Customers rely on that smelly garbage being gone without fail, without fuss, without creating a mess. Employers rely on the job getting done so customers will pay their bills and keep them in business. Other garbage collectors have to follow the good example so they can keep their jobs. So this garbage collector IS a leader!
When we fulfill our responsibilities, we are leading in some way. It’s as simple as that!
In the 1500s, a former monk by the name of Martin Luther put forward a radical idea – that the labor of the common man was of no less value than that of the priest or nobleman. In other words, whatever job we do has dignity and value, even if our place is not on the top of the heap. The Reformation and the Renaissance followed after this idea took root.
This idea should inspire us. Whether we are on the top or the bottom, the best at what we do or just average, we are valuable, influential, and we create a place for ourselves by the job we do. This idea seems so simple as to be insignificant; but it has in it the seeds of both contentment and effectiveness. Not in an unattainable position but in the position we now occupy we are exerting influence that matters. Our friends, children, spouses, coworkers, neighbors, and others are being affected, for better or worse, by what we do and how we do it.
This can be a two-edged sword. We all fail to some degree. We all have “attitude adjustments” we go through. How we handle victory is sometimes even a stumbling block. But when we failed, we lived to try another day. When our attitudes weren’t right, we had to get a little humble and go a new direction. When we were arrogant about our accomplishments, we experienced an opportunity to grow deeper instead of taller. When we really did well, we got to see the results of our labor and, hopefully, derive satisfaction from a job well done. Our victories can sometimes be the most humbling and at the same time pleasurable experiences we have.
All of this is just a description of our daily sphere of influence, of taking care of our business. The funny thing about this is that it seems the better we do this, the more we get to do, the broader and deeper our experience becomes, the more we are stretched, and the greater our influence.
Which brings us back to our main point, refined a little bit - leadership is influence brought about through using the unique abilities we have every day. It is expressed in everyday tasks – even if they include garbage collecting!
Mike Meyers has over 25 years of combined computer software, network, and hardware professional experience. He also served as a missionary smuggling Bibles into closed countries, helping start businesses in Honduras to support poor believers where unemployment is 50%.