We never quite know where inspiration will come from. Everywhere we look—in the workplace, in the classroom, among our friends and family—there are dozens of opportunities each and every day to see true, authentic leadership in action. And we know it when we see it! Remember your first professional mentor who generated such warmth, understanding, and compassion that you were inspired to reach above and beyond expectations? Or the outstanding teacher who willingly shared his intellect, resources, talents, and time—the one who set the example and inspired your passion for a career as an educator or trainer? Regardless of status or title, we can feel the self-confidence that genuine leaders exude; they know who they are, what they stand for, and are willing to step up and take the moral high ground. And that perception of self-confidence easily rubs off on us.
At the same time we are looking outward to spot exemplary leadership practices and behaviors in others, we may be unaware of when we are the ones serving as an inspirational model to someone else. When we live our lives with authenticity, we don't necessarily think deliberately about what we're doing. We just do because it's the right thing for us. Our behaviors are natural—and genuine—and that's when others take notice.
In the case of graduate student Donovan McFarlane, he found inspiration and motivation from his personal encounters with, among others, our own Barry Posner. And in a recently published article entitled "Impressed and Inspired" he offers a reminder to us all that what we do makes a difference. Even if we aren't aware that anyone is paying attention, how we Model the Way matters.
Terri Armstrong Welch is an independent writer and editor contributing to the marketing and editorial programs at Pfeiffer, including The Leadership Challenge product line. A former member of the Jossey-Bass team, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at http://yourrockstarwriter.wordpress.com.