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  • Writer's pictureKen Clark

Being Thankful for the Leaders In Our Lives

All true leaders in our lives have one thing in common. By the very definition of the word, they go first into uncomfortable territory. They’re at the front of the line when it comes to doing the hard things in life, in companies, in countries and in relationships. They make themselves vulnerable, put themselves at risk and show us it is safe to follow.

The crazy part is that the vast majority of leaders didn’t sign up for the job. They might have signed up to help, thought they could make a difference or even agreed to be in charge, but most had no idea what they were getting themselves into until a moment of crisis. Most weren’t leaders until they were leading a crowd who wasn’t sure if they were going to follow.

Leaders emerge when integrity and survival find themselves at odds. They emerge when the easy answer, the safe answer, protects either our integrity or our survival, but not both. They lead us across the rickety suspension bridge over the foggy chasm of possibility, simultaneously managing our grumblings and their own self-doubt.

Whether it’s on a national level, in a small company or in a family of four, change occurs in this world because of them. It’s because of them that we don’t give in to fight, flight or freeze. It’s because of them that we push past our stereotypes. It’s because of them that we learn to better love, live and forgive.

Thanking the Less Obvious Leader

Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and job descriptions. Some lead countries from the pulpit, but most lead households, workplaces and communities from a position of humility. Most don’t hold any official power and have no ability to demand those that they inspire do anything.

They’re the child we’re raising who shows the homeless person more kindness than our jaded views allow. They’re the teacher who buys school supplies with their own money because kids need to learn. They’re the person who’s been discriminated against and treated unfairly more times than they can count, but believes that hating someone back only deepens the problem.

All lead by example, showing us an alternative way of living with one another. They lead with their sacrifice, showing that we ourselves have no excuse to be stingy with the exponentially more we have. They lead with their persistence and resilience, showing that we ourselves don’t get to quit just because change has become hard or inconvenient.

Thanking these leaders in your life means first identifying them. For some of us, it means swallowing our pride and status and acknowledging that someone who has been given far less than us, has acted in more impressive ways. It means elevating someone’s actions that you alone find meaningful, even if the crowd around you doesn’t celebrate them.

Yes, words of gratitude will always matter to these folks. Tell them, tag them, text them and let them know how inspiring their actions are. But, when the chance comes for you to lead, make sure they’re honored. Tell others that your leadership, your moment of stepping up, the act for which you’re receiving praise, wouldn’t exist without them. Acknowledge that you stand on the shoulders of greatness, even if it was someone who no one has ever heard of. Especially if it is someone that no one has ever heard of.

So go do it, today, right now. Thank the first person that comes to mind when you think of the words integrity, bravery or leader. Let them know that they’ve inspired you in big ways, changed you in subtle ways and that both your world and the world we share is better because they went first.

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