The one mistake nearly all leaders make

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Who is the first person you think of when you hear the word, leader? Steve Jobs? Barack Obama? Your boss? Why not yourself?

Traditionally, we define a leader as a person who leads a group or organisation and motivates them to act toward achieving a common goal. Unfortunately, we are programmed by society to believe that leaders are presidents or CEOs, implying that leadership is reserved for a select few. This ideology is limiting, giving the impression that you cannot be a leader because you are not important enough or powerful enough. We have been taught that a leader is something we eventually become or get to at some point in the future, always out of reach. We admire people widely agreed upon by society to be leaders and think, “One day, I will be a leader like that.” This idea of leadership as a place you get to one day strips us from experiencing ourselves as leaders right now. You are a leader, and not recognising yourself as such is the biggest mistake you are making.

The idea that leaders can naturally emerge from anyone at any time may be counter-intuitive. When we think about the word, leader, why do we think about CEOs and presidents but not a single mother? Every day, both declare future outcomes, design plans, communicate with others, acknowledge others for successes, or have conversations to resolve shortcomings. Of course, the context and the scale of impact may be different in terms of the number of people affected, the nature of the tasks, etc, but the quality of their actions is the same. However, it may still be harder to see how a single mother practices leadership although they are both creating workability in everything they do within their respective environments, which is the cornerstone of leadership. Effective leadership is not only manifested by grandiose accomplishments that are acknowledged by a lot of people; it is found in the everyday tasks of everyday people.

To see yourself as a leader where you are right now, consider leadership as a place to come from rather than a place to get to. I say this another way as a “come-from phenomenon” versus a “get-to phenomenon.” A phenomenon here refers to an observable event. That is, if you were a fly on the wall of that CEO or single mother, you will not only observe the actions they take but also how they are being about these actions — that is, are they being accountable, responsible, intentional? The way you are being and acting in your environment, and the world by extension, is what makes up the foundation of leadership as a “come-from phenomenon.” And that’s accessible to you, right now; we already have that innate ability that we need to be leaders wherever we are.

A co-worker reporting to me once realised that he was not going to complete what he said he would by the end of the day. He immediately pulled me aside and indicated that to me and identified that there would be an impact on four other teammates and two departments as a result of his delay. He subsequently drafted e-mail notifications to be sent out to all those impacted, indicating a new promise to be completed.

In this example, if you were a fly on the wall, you can observe the actions being taken — the e-mail being drafted, him calculating an estimate of the new timeline, him approaching my desk and speaking with me. On the surface, we say that he is just doing his job. However, we also see him being accountable for the future that he said was going to be fulfilled; we see him being responsible, intentional and in communication about the impact of his delay. The point here is that if we look at who he is being in that moment when he realises he is going to miss the deadline, we will start to get the flavour of what it looks like to be a leader. That is, being accountable, being responsible, being someone that honours the rules of engagement, being in communication and acknowledging the facts as they are. Therefore, in a traditional sense, we will say that he was doing his job but now we can say that he was leading from where he was. In the same way, you can be a leader from where you are, at any time.

Leadership is a choice; it is a declaration you make for yourself. You do not require validation by anyone to make you a leader — this authority lies within yourself alone. When you are consistent in your intentionality to be a leader, you will certainly see the quality of your life begin to transform in your home, your community, your workplace, wherever you are.

Effective leadership also naturally emerges from mastering being effective in your daily life, which I like to refer to as workability. This is the seedbed of leadership and gives you that ground to naturally expand your accountabilities in life, such as asking for a promotion, deciding to start a family, taking on a new hobby, etc, inevitably involving other people along the way who share your vision and desire to win. Therefore, the key to discovering your leadership right here, right now, is to master workability while coming from a place of being a leader.

Dev Ramnarine is a Trinidad-born, internationally experienced accountant, auditor and business consultant with 17 years of experience elevating individual and organisational performance. He is a well-known speaker and has spoken to thousands of people around the world and he loves grounding his mastery by imparting knowledge. The content in this article will be explored in more detail in his upcoming book which will explore Quantum Leadership and a model he created, The Wheel of Workability. Also follow him at,

(Content courtesy ACCA)


"The one mistake nearly all leaders make"

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