I've come to realize that for most of us, we idealize or admire two types of leaders: the world-famous and the famous-only-to-us.
The first type of leader is important because we need these great, big, grandiose, kinds of leaders. We need people larger than life who achieve great things, have a rags-to-riches story, grab headlines, and forever change the course of culture or history. We need to see the extreme of success so that if we get lucky enough to taste a tenth of it, we'll have a great sense of accomplishment.
The second type of leader makes leadership and influence much more relatable and realistic. This kind of leader lets us see what impact or influence looks like up close and shows us that leadership doesn't have to happen on a big stage. This person is known only to us and by a much smaller circle of people (than the first leader) to be an influencer. We learn from them what it means to have an impact amongst a focused group of peers, friends, family, or community.
Each kind of leader, however, has a core story; something he or she is about that compels others to take notice and follow. Each leader has a drive and a goal they are working towards in order to accomplish some personal dream. And, if successful, each leader is able to influence people they will never meet as their followers go on to lead others, regardless of profession or focus or family.
When I think of that first leader, I think of Jay-Z, someone who has inspired millions with his artistry and acumen, someone who has risen above circumstance to amass wealth and influence many will only ever dream about. I think about someone using his influence to improve things for himself, his inner circle, and to some extent, a larger community. I think about someone who gets attention by what he does on stage and then also gets attention by who he has become off of it. I think about someone I will never meet but continually watch and listen to with interest and spectacle.
And when I think of that second leader, I think of Jeff, someone who invested in me half my life ago, seeing the potential to stand on a stage and tell a story that moves listeners to be better. I think of someone who continues to give his time, attention, wisdom, and concern to me so that I improve not just what I do, but who I am. I think of someone who may not be in the headlines or the limelight, but someone who is consistently able to help and influence others, no matter where he finds himself. I think of someone who leads by example as a husband and father, a leader and mentor, a student and speaker, an entrepreneur and teacher. I think of someone who is able to invest his own time and energy wisely so that others pay that favor forward.
We all need leaders in our lives. I hope you're able not just to admire the people we all consider leaders but also the people I'll never hear of, the people who have led you to where you are today.