This morning, I talked with my interns on the topic, “Leadership is Life.” After the talk, Danielle, one of the interns told me, “You need to write a blog post about that.” Here is what I shared with them.

Leadership is lifeLeadership is Life. The essence of life is leadership.

Personal Leadership

Personal leadership, our ability to lead ourselves, determines what kind of life we live. Personal leadership determines what we eat, how disciplined we are to exercise, how we grow physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. It ultimately determines the length, quality, and impact of our lives.

The quality of relationships we have with our families, friends, coworkers, and everybody we meet depends on leadership. The success we have on the job also depends on personal leadership. When we lead ourselves well, it determines the decisions and choices we make and those decisions determine destiny. Yes, our choices determine our futures. Discipline determines destiny and personal leadership is the root of discipline and the root of good decision making. Leadership is everything. Living is leading. To live at all is to lead. To live well is to lead well.

Interpersonal Leadership

The hardest person to lead is yourself. When you are successful with personal leadership, then you move on to become effective in interpersonal leadership, which is what we often call leadership. If you don’t lead yourself well but try to lead others, you would end up faking it. Good leaders are people who have learned how to lead themselves. They have led themselves to climb to the top of the mountain of success. Once they’ve done that, they come down to help show others the way and teach them how to lead themselves to climb the mountain as well. Interpersonal leadership determines the quality of all the relationships we have with others and determines our success in life. John Maxwell says one is too small a number to do anything significant. He’s right. To do anything significant in life, you need teamwork and interpersonal leadership is crucial for success within teams.

Leadership is Life

Leadership is Not Position. Leadership is Influence

Remember that leadership is not position. Leadership is influence. We all influence thousands of people during our lifetimes. Let me use the following analogy.

Life is a fire, Leadership is the light and heat it produces

Leadership is the effect of a person’s life on other people around it. It can be either good or bad.

Imagine life to be a big burning fire. Leadership (influence) is the effect (heat and light) of that life (fire) on people around it. We are always leading. To have breath is to be leading. The question is, what kind of leadership?

It’s hard to separate the heat and light from the fire that produces it. In a very real sense, they are different forms of energy, different representations of the same thing. You cannot separate a life from its influence on other people. Life by nature influences. You cannot stop life from influencing. A life that doesn’t influence is the life that didn’t exist.

Leadership is the light and heat, position or title is the lamp-stand on which the lamp is put

We each are a life. We don’t just have life. Each of us is a life, a lamp that is lit to shine and give light and heat to those around us. Leadership or influence is that heat and light. If you light a lamp and put it under a bowl or hide it under something, it still shines there. It shines there even though no one enjoys the light and the warmth that comes from it. But if you take the lamp from under the bowl and put it on a lamp stand, a lot more people will enjoy the light and warmth. Position or title in an organization, family, state, or country is the lamp stand. The lamp and it’s light and heat are the same under a bowl as on the lamp stand. The stand just gives more opportunity to shine and bless others. If the lamp tried to shine more on the stand than under the bowl, it will be faking, it would not be who it really was inside.

Life is like the sun. Heat and light are leadership.

To see it another way, life is like the sun. It shines and produces heat and light. That is the influence of the sun we feel. That is its leadership, the rays we enjoy. When we are burned, we say we have a sunburn. Our language seems to say the sun itself has burned us. Through its influence, the sun inspires and motivates many people and brings joy to their hearts. It helps plants grow and produce food. It helps us make vitamin D. The sun is so crucial to life that without it, life as we know it is impossible. And how does the sun do all that? By simply being the sun, being itself. If we were to ask the sun why it is always burning and giving light, it would likely say something like this. “That’s who I am. It’s in my nature to do so. I don’t have to try. I produce light when I’m just myself.”

Like the sun, our lives by nature influence. It’s in the nature of life to influence. Life influences life. Life works in and through us to influence others. That is, life works in our lives and through our lives to positively influence others.

Life doesn’t have to try to influence. Like the sun, life is a gift and we give it away to others by influencing them positively. Each one of us is just as important to all of us as the sun is to us. The Butterfly Effect explains this well. Everything that anyone of us does has a huge impact on all of us. We influence each other in tremendous ways without knowing.

Have you ever seen a person who is full of life? He positively influences those around him. He lifts up their souls. He causes the baby in other people’s wombs to leap for joy. I’m reminded of the ancient physician, Dr. Luke, who told a story of two women who were both pregnant with babies whom they believed were destined for greatness.

When Mary discovered that Elizabeth was also pregnant, a miracle since she had been trying for decades, Mary rushed to Elizabeth’s home. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting as she entered her house, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was inspired to sing “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! … As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.”

Life influences life and life works in and through life to influence other lives, to cause their babies to leap for joy.

And leadership is that influence. The essence of life is influence. The essence of life is leadership.

But leadership is more than that. I’m convinced that living well is an expression of life. Leadership is the fruit of life.

In the past, I defined leadership as influence, the ability to positively influence others. The essence of life is influencing other people, leaving an impact on others that lasts beyond your own life.

Leadership is life. Living at all is leading. That’s why every moment counts. It counts because it influences others.