Keep saying yes to leadership–this is what Jim Kouzes, world-renowned leadership expert wrote in my autographed copy of his book The Truth about Leadership.

The word “keep” implies that we have already been practicing leadership skills…because we probably have. His book reports that 77% of our leadership role models come from non-work situations. When asked at a recent conference about role models, the majority of the 200+ attendees cited family members as their role models for leadership. This gave  credence to Kouzes’s statement that the leaders who have the most influence on us are those closest to us.

What implications does this have? It encourages me to be more mindful of the behavior that I practice with those closest to me. Recently my twenty-something niece told me that she learned her strong work ethic from her “New England aunties.” I was happy to think that my sisters and I had such a positive influence on her. Yet I must admit it occurred unconsciously.

It gave me pause to think how we can be unconsciously influential. This can be good if the modeling is positive, as it was in my niece’s remembrance. My niece’s tribute gave me an opportunity to reflect on how one particular aunt in my own childhood was my role model because she had such interesting work that I loved to hear about. Her stories offered lasting lessons due to the trajectory of my own life. And yet she, too, was surprised to hear how influential she was in my early years.

If we can make such impressions without consciousness, imagine what can be done with a concerted effort.

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