The true heroes of leadership are the ordinary people who get extraordinary things done.

They are the men and women from all over the globe, from all walks of life and of all ages, and from a variety of organizations, public and private, government and NGOs, high-tech and low-tech, small and large, schools and professional services, who daily struggle to lead us to greatness. They’re not the public figures, the famous people, or the mega-stars. They’re the people who might live next door or work in the next cubicle over.

We’ve focused our 25 years research and writing on everyday leaders because leadership is not about position or title. Leadership is not about organizational power or authority. It’s not about celebrity or wealth. It’s not about the family you are born into. It’s not about being a CEO, president, general, or prime minister. Leadership is about relationships, about credibility, and about what you do.
You Are the Most Important Leader
in Your Organization

If you’re a manager in an organization, to your direct reports you are the most important leader in your organization. You are more likely than any other leader to influence their desire to stay or leave, the trajectory of their careers, their ethical behavior, their ability to perform at their best, their drive to wow customers, their satisfaction with their jobs, and their motivation to share the organization’s vision and values.

If you’re a parent, teacher, coach, or community leader, you are the person who’s setting the leadership example for young people. It’s not hip-hop artists, movie stars, or professional athletes they seek guidance from. You are the one they are most likely going to look to for the example of how a leader responds to competitive situations, handles crises, deals with loss, or resolves ethical dilemmas. It’s not someone else. It’s you.

The leaders who have the most influence on us are those who are the closest to us. We have to challenge the myth that leadership is about position and power. And, once challenged, people can come to see leadership in a whole new light. Yukari Huguenard, an everyday leader we interviewed, told us how much he had changed his view of leadership after he had examined his assumptions:

I used to think leaders had to be at the top level of a large organization. With that view of leadership, the chasm between where I am and being a leader was uncrossable. Now, I see leaders leading a group of people of any size and leading at any level. You are a leader if you employ these five leadership practices because people around you want to follow. In that sense, I feel that I’m already a leader.

There’s no escape. Leadership is everyone’s business. No matter what your position is, you have to take responsibility for the quality of leadership your constituents get. You—and that means all of us—are accountable for the leadership you demonstrate. And, because you are the most important leader to those closest to you, the only choice you really have is whether or not to be the best leader you can be.
Leadership Is Learned

The notion that leadership is reserved for only a very few of us is reinforced every time someone asks, “Are leaders born or made?” Whenever we’re asked this question—which is almost every time we give a speech or conduct a class or workshop—our answer, always offered with a smile, is this: “Yes, of course, all leaders are born. We’ve never met a leader who wasn’t. So are all accountants, artists, athletes, parents, zoologists, you name it.” We’re all born. What we do with what we have before we die is up to us.

It’s just pure myth that only a lucky few can ever understand the intricacies of leadership. Leadership is not a gene, and it’s not a secret code that can’t be deciphered by ordinary people. The truth is that leadership is an observable set of skills and abilities that are useful whether one is in the executive suite or on the front line, on Wall Street, Beijing Financial Street, or Main Street, in any campus, community, or corporation. And any skill can be strengthened, honed, and enhanced, given the motivation and desire, along with practice and feedback, role models, and coaching.

We’ve been fortunate to have heard and read the stories of thousands of ordinary people who’ve led others to get extraordinary things done. And there are millions more. It’s not the absence of leadership potential that inhibits the development of more leaders; it’s the persistence of the myth that leadership can’t be learned. This haunting myth is a far more powerful deterrent to leadership development than is the nature of the person or the basics of the leadership process.

The experience of Juan Gonzalez is typical of the leaders we’ve worked with around the world. Juan told us that taking the view that leadership was a set of practices was a good start for understanding that leadership was everyone’s business, and this approach offered him a new perspective on the world of human interaction by demystifying the notion of natural born leaders and, if anything. The fact that leaders can learn to be leaders though self-awareness and effort opens the possibility that individuals have a choice about pursuing or ignoring the calling of leadership. Not everyone will be a leader of historical proportions; however, we all can and should assume leadership roles in our regular activities more often than not.

Certainly, we shouldn’t mislead people into believing that they can attain unrealistic goals. However, neither should we assume that only a few would ever attain excellence in leadership (or in any other human endeavor). We do know that those who are most successful at bringing out the best in others are those who set achievable “stretch” goals and believe that they have the ability to develop the talents of others. We know that effective leaders are constantly learning. They see all experiences as learning experiences, not just those sessions in a formal classroom or workshop. They’re constantly looking for ways to improve themselves and their organizations. Even if some people think that they’re not able to learn to lead, you must believe that you and they can. That’s where it all starts—with your own belief in yourself and in others.

Article by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
Originally Published by AdvantEdge for Nightingale-Conant Corporation © 2008

Contractor VL Earplugs with Music and Volume Limiting

Few things can make a long day on the job go by quickly like listening to your favorite music while you work. In hazardously loud working environments, it can be difficult to listen to music while still being able to protect your hearing — which is absolutely critical.

Enter Plugfones Contractor Earplugs – hearing protection earplugs with music.

Noise above 85dB (fairly common in construction, factory, and other industrial settings) can cause permanent hearing damage. That means you just can’t give up your hearing protection in order to listen to tunes on the job. But with Plugfones, you can have the best of both worlds: NRR 25 hearing protection and music.

IMPORTANT: Built-in volume limiting keeps these earphones to a safe volume, so Plugfones will never damage your hearing, even after long hours of frequent usage. That makes Plugfones Contractor VL ideal for OSHA-controlled workplaces. These Contractor VL earplug earphones limit volume to a safe 82dB, per OSHA standards. With their noise blocking, most people find that audio volume satisfactory. However, Plugfones Contractor earplug earphones are also available in a model without volume limiting here.

Plugfones Contractor Earplugs are tough, created to stand up to daily use. Replaceable plug tips plus rugged construction will keep your Plugfones healthy and working day after day. You can arrange your Plugfones to fit your clothes, environment, and range of motion thanks to a long, flexible, extra rugged cord. Both silicone and foam tips are included so you can get a comfortable, effective fit. And because they fit so snugly, Plugfones won’t fall out while you work — but they’ll still create a good seal against noise, so hazardous sounds stay out and your music stays in, with good quality and clarity. (These same features make these Plugfones a good choice for jogging, running, or the gym.)

Plugfones Contractor Earplugs with Music Features:

Available in hi-viz yellow
Double reinforced jack fits most phones, mp3 players, etc
Flexible wire casing and generously long cable
Super comfort fit and improved sound quality
Safe volume limiting technology
Replaceable plug tips
90 Day Manufacturer’s Warranty
NRR 25

Define Success on Your Own Terms


“Your true success in life begins only when you make the
commitment to become excellent at what you do.” —Brian Tracy
“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become
the best that you are capable of becoming.” —John Wooden
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you
haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs
Success, like happiness, is an individual pursuit. For years, we
have been taught that success is all about making a lot of money.
That is also what we have inadvertently taught our children and in
turn, they too will pass on this folly to their children. You might
never have heard your parents speak about success but isn’t it
true that they often encouraged you to become a Lawyer or
Doctor, long before you were old enough to know what you are
good at?
Why do you think this is the case? The prominence associated
with these jobs may only be part of the reasons we subtly push
our children in that direction. But for the most part, it is the money
that they find attractive. Even if they or their children are

accomplished within their respective areas of expertise but are
struggling financially, they find it hard to regard this as success.
The result of this kind of narrow-minded thinking is a society of
people who are unhappy, depressed or underachieving because
they are stuck in a career they hate or miserable because they
can never live up to the unrealistic expectations set for and are
being forcefully imposed upon them. Just think about all the
wealthy celebrities you know that have committed suicide or are
fighting hard to recover from a drug addiction.
While being stable or even well off financially is often the result of
much diligence and hard work, it is not the only true measure of
success. There is no real satisfaction from being rich if you do not
truly enjoy what you do. If you are struggling to make ends meet
however, it is only natural to want a better life for yourself and
your children. I would never encourage you to stop pushing
yourself to earn enough to care for the needs of your family. But
when your happiness and even the affection you have for your
children is hinged solely on wealth or material possessions, I have
to draw the line.
That being said, what really makes a person successful? Here is
what some of the greatest minds in this world have to say on
the matter.
“Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is
in us, becoming all that we can be.”– Zig Ziglar

“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you
can do and succeed at.” – Stephen Hawking
“The starting point of all achievement is desire.” – Napoleon Hill
As you can see, each one has their own opinions about the
boundaries within which we define success. That is because
success means very different things to different people. In fact,
even those with great wealth may not see themselves as
successful. There is, however, one common theme in these
sayings. Success is no accident. Success is achieved as a result of working hard at whatever you do.
It is impossible to become successful by just doing enough to get
by. Anyone can be average. If your aim is to be successful, you
must have such a burning desire to be first, to do more or even to
do better, that it pains you stop working towards these goals. Your
aspirations should greet you every morning and daintily waltz
about in your dreams every night. And no matter what obstacle
presents itself, you will always keep telling yourself that you can’t
stop and you won’t stop.
That kind of burning desire is what I call motivation. Motivation is
the force that compels us to strive for success, helps us to unlock
the full potential of our minds and keeps us continually focused on
and committed to attaining our goals. Motivation is thus the
universal key to success. It is impossible to have this kind of drive
if you do not truly love what you do and if you are not confident
enough to think you can do it well. That is why it is so
crucial for you to define success on your own terms. Which
achievement do you think is worth pursuing? Which
accomplishment do you yearn to share with your children and
grandchildren? That is the aspiration that will make you a success
and you should never stop trying to make these dreams a reality.
Realism is a very important aspect of being motivated to succeed.
The next chapter is designed to help you stay motivated by
teaching you to set realistic goals.

To be continued…