Making an Impact
Early in October, on a clear, cool evening with the moon lighting life’s stage, I attended the most extraordinary memorial service. The circumstances were heartbreaking – a beautiful woman in the prime of her life, diagnosed with terminal cancer, was gone only months later. Absolutely tragic. But the impact she had on the people around her was truly inspiring. She helped those around her see their own beauty; people talked of how loved they felt in her presence; how, when they felt despair, she brought the colors of their lives back into view; she repaired relationships, sought truth, and inspired hope.
What a legacy. The impact she made on the people in her life, had a ripple effect. I didn’t have the privilege of knowing her – but still I experience her impact. Now you do too.
Do we ever really know the impact that we have on others? Are we making the impact we want to be making?
We get so good at compartmentalizing our lives. Our work life. Our family life. Friends. Activities. Community. But really, it’s all life. When it’s over, people aren’t going to say, “He closed a lot of deals!” or “Wow, did she ever know how to hit her numbers!” People are going to remember how they felt. They’re going to remember the impact you made on them. And impact doesn’t have to wait for work to end and the rest of our life to start. We have the power to make an impact 24/7.
Every time I lead a program, I’m astounded and saddened to hear about the impact that many leaders are making on the people who report to them – other leaders, just one rung down on the ole organizational ladder. I hear about “heads that are going to roll” if numbers aren’t being hit. I hear about fears of losing jobs if they ask for what they want or offer up ideas. I hear a lot of mistrust, judgment, and pain. I also know that almost every leader I’ve ever worked with is truly trying to do his or her best, and most care more deeply about the people they work with, than they ever let on.
So what gives? If most leaders really are trying their best and care a lot, why do so many people feel their boss is out to get them? Is it just the nature of the corporate beast? Do leaders have to resort to desperate measures in such desperate times? Are all employees just looking for someone to blame for their circumstances? I don’t think so. I think most of us are simply reacting to the world around us, without asking ourselves some important questions: What impact do we want to have on the people around us? What can we do to have the impact we want to have?
Winston Churchill once said, “The price of greatness is responsibility”. Consider, as a leader, how might you be responsible for the impact you have on others?
There’s so much we can’t control in this world. We can’t control the economy. We can’t control how many fat grams there are in take-out food. We can’t control how others think and feel. But what can we control? We can control how we spend our money. We can control if we make our own food or what we order. We can control our own actions. Effective actions are typically not in reaction. Effective action takes thought. Effective action involves choosing how you want to show up, rather than solely reacting to the situations at hand.
As leaders, we’re incredibly influential. Every action we take, whether intentional or not, has a ripple effect. Our words and actions have the ability to build people up, increase their belief in themselves, their commitment to our organizations, and drive action around shared purpose. What impact do you want to have?
Today I challenge you to explore the actions you can take to have the impact you want to have. Going into your team meetings, your one-on-ones, your quick desk-side exchanges with that sense of responsibility, makes for a leadership legacy worth leaving.
©OnStage Leadership, 2009 (re-posted in 2014)
Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop. Click here to read what people are saying!
Want to get clear about the impact you want to make so you can do something about it? Join us at our upcoming session of OnStage Leadership: Dallas, TX – July 24; NYC, Fall 2014 (date tbd).