As we show up every day in our leadership roles as supervisors, fathers or elders, we have labels that identify our natural role. What true leadership means to me goes deeper than just our responsible or identifiable roles. 

It speaks to our personal integrity – “what we do when no one is looking”.  This is the next right thing. It’s leading through example.

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Our reflection of self happens when we engage a fellow shopper at the grocery store. It is how we react to other commuters on the bus, subway, train or in the car. It is the “Thank you” while engaging eye to eye with a smile. It is the holding of a door, the offer to help someone with their groceries or assisting with a walk across the street.

Most importantly and with practice, these actions become a part of our identifiable character. All of this is felt and seen by our youth. Remember, the youth are sponges and absorb all. Whether we realize it or do not, they take in the negative or positive. 

I prefer to engage people, especially younger people, with an attitude of gratitude. I talk to them as my equal. I do not dumb down, but I choose to let them ask questions and create an understanding. 

Words make a difference and when they lift their eyes from the phone or device and listen and observe. What I find is they are extremely receptive to a challenge. I challenge them to grow and better their vocabulary, their conversational skills, and most importantly, how they represent themselves as they use the everyday tools to thrive and be successful. The simple stretching of vocabulary and integrating meaningful words excites the young mind. They surprise themselves with their own growth. In turn, it has a direct effect on we who are “older” and perhaps more knowledgeable, the leaders who take this leadership role to heart. We grow within ourselves as we witness young people growing.

We must make this awareness and behaviors a part of everyday interaction. There is no turning off after a rough day. No excuses for poor behavior. Let us all identify our own shortcomings and possibilities. After all, we all are works in progress. Let us shape new generations, new leaders as an example of challenging ourselves, as well as challenging them. Our future leaders will thank us and keep us all moving in the right direction. Let us all step into our excellence and show up today and every day to follow.

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Robert W. Payne will release his book “Chaos Agent” (working title) in early 2019. He grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois (south of Chicago) and is an agent of change based on his life experiences. He is a member of the Genshai team – a word that means, “Never treat another person in a manner which makes them feel small, including yourself.”