Everyday Leadership with Erin McElroy

May 18, 2021

In James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s most recent book Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership, the authors explore the idea that leadership is not tied to a particular title or status, but to a series of behaviors and actions that set individuals apart as leaders, regardless of rank or authority. It is when we utilize the set of skills and behaviors modeled in The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® that we can become true leaders, whether it be at work, at home, or in our communities.

One example of this kind of leader is Erin McElroy, Founder of Project Front Line and Founding Partner of Locatile, Inc. who rose to a position of leadership in her community not because of her status or title, but because of her commitment to the leadership-at-any-level skills she learned through The Leadership Challenge®. Erin is featured in both the book and our recent webinar Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership because of how she faced the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic head-on and seized the opportunity to help her community in a creative and impactful way.

Aligning her core principles and the desire to help her community, Erin started Project Front Line and raised over $50,000 from 542 donors for struggling restaurants and cafés so they could stay in business during lockdown while making and donating food to front line workers. This kind of extraordinary leadership is an example of the kind of profound impact we could all make when utilizing The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.

We had the opportunity to ask Erin a few questions about how The Leadership Challenge informed her approach to starting Project Front Line and how this experience impacted not only her community, but her approach to leadership.

Q. How did The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® influence you to take action?

A.  I was able to reconnect with my core values to demonstrate love and be of service. Those actions included connecting and communicating with like-minded people and collaborating with a shared vision and values. Having these clear intentions helped others understand the purpose as well. Though we were all sheltering at home for the safety of our community, we were able to take action in a way that connected with and showed kindness to others. Guided by The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership we were able tap into hope and contribute to our community. Acting from the heart helped us to find a way to help businesses shuttered by the pandemic and support our frontline workers by getting them food and treats to make a double impact. Even though we were home we were able to honor their role in fighting the pandemic.

We also thought of how we could Challenge the Process, one of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. Approaching this entirely from our homes forced us to do everything virtually. My co-creators and I harnessed connectivity through social media and apps. It was incredible that even apart we were able to do something so significant together. Each part of The Five Practices was in the background during this project.
Q. What did you learn about leadership through this experience?

A. I learned that when core values are in sync with The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, and when we collaborate with other leaders who operate with similar values and utilize the practices at a masterful level, we can have unprecedented results. That kindness and the shared desire to support others can move mountains and when people come together regardless of title, influence, or authority and have a shared purpose and goal, so much can be accomplished. Servant leadership really allows for and cultivates leadership in others. I always say bloom where planted. Working on Project Front Line gave me a metaphorical garden, and as the creator I tended to it. As we progressed, the other leaders also bloomed and instead of just one flower we became a bouquet, and the project became a field of wildflowers.

Q. What advice would you give others that don’t see themselves as leaders?

A. I would tell them to reflect and consider that they may be leaders already. Take an audit of their core values and look at what they do best, or times that they were proud, which, for some, can be a difficult process. If it is difficult to reflect on yourself in that way, perhaps think of a leader or someone that inspires you and ask yourself why? What qualities do you admire? Do you see any of those traits in yourself? It’s okay if you typically think a leader has a title, leads a country, or is in the public eye, but consider that you are a leader too. Whether it is in your home, at work, in a church community, or sports group, just know that you have everything you need to make an impact and send a ripple into this world.

We encourage you to follow Erin’s lead and reflect on the ways you can be a leader from wherever you are. Access a recording of our recent webinar Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership to hear more of Erin’s story of leadership here.

To learn more about how you can develop your leadership skills and become an extraordinary leader, visit The Leadership Challenge.

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