Making the decision to be a leader is the GREATEST GIFT you could ever give yourself in life, and who doesn’t like gifts?  You have that chance right now as you read this. Leadership is the gift that opens many OPPORTUNITIES for you and those that depend on you.  Leadership gives you the opportunity to own any fear, uncertainty and doubt, but more importantly it gives you the responsibility to remove it from others.  I am hopeful that you seize this opportunity and start wrapping a gift with a pretty bow on it for yourself.

Leadership is inspiring and exhilarating, but it is also challenging. It’s not the same as management.  Managing tasks is pretty straight forward: see the task, do the task, done. Leading people is not so easy.  Why? Because there are 7.3 billion people in the world and no two are alike. As a leader, you have to develop skills to set a vision people can follow, develop relationships so people want to follow, and set goals so they know how to follow. People are really complex and have their own thoughts, beliefs, feelings and emotions.  But guess what? Leaders are made. (Stay tuned, we talk about that later during b MADE!) This human element is the part that can be magical about being a Fearless Leader.  Just imagine walking into a room during a crisis, and everyone being calmer or feeling better because you are there.  That’s being a Fearless Leader, and Fearless Leaders lean-in to their people’s thoughts, beliefs, feelings and emotions.  And I can promise you this, these complex creatures known as your family, friends, colleagues, and community members will provide you with many opportunities to lead them in life as they share their fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

As a Fearless Leader you will have fulfilling days, confusing days, and down-right tough days, and the scary part can be that you don’t know which each day will bring. But that’s what makes true leaders special, they overcome the fear and make the DAILY DECISION to lead. Every day you have the opportunity to unwrap a gift, accept the unknown challenge, and bask in the rewards. You have the daily decision to make the world a less fearful place, simply by accepting the mantel of leadership.

So, welcome to your leadership JOURNEY.  It truly is a journey and not a one-stop DESTINATION. Becoming a strong and Fearless Leader is a lifelong pursuit, and each day serves as a new lesson and teaching moment, preparing us for greater opportunities in life.  As you are presented these opportunities, and we both know they are really challenges-in-disguise, no matter how tough it is, think of the strength you are building and how much more prepared you will be for the next even bigger opportunity.  That is one of the blessings of Fearless Leadership – each challenge and opportunity makes us stronger for the next one if we embrace it, if we lean-in, and if we commit to be a truly Fearless Leader.

Say these words: Today I will be a leader.  Sounds simple – you get up, make some coffee, check on your favorite teams score from the night before, Google something and tell yourself that today is your day to lead. For some of us, this might be true, and for others we really have to work hard each day to make that decision.

There are two parts to how our mind processes this daily decision – the conscious and the subconscious.  I believe the subconscious mind is the more powerful one because it is running and working and processing things, and we don’t even know it.  The subconscious mind senses a challenge, a tough day, a situation to address or overcome.  Do we think and act fearlessly and run to the challenge? Or does our subconscious mind bury it for another day?  It’s an interesting question that only you can answer.

As you build up your fearless skills, the answer will become clearer – you will find yourself addressing problems earlier and confronting challenges when they are speed bumps on the road to success instead of forks in the road. Your subconscious mind will point you in the right direction, and your conscious mind will take over and apply your skills, tools and mindset to think and act fearlessly.

As a leader myself, one thing I really try to work on is consistency.  If I can make the decision to lead every day, first subconsciously and then consciously, I will provide my team with a consistent person to depend on, to lean on, to seek strength from.  Some days I look at my calendar and say, “Today is going to be a doozie,” and in that moment, I realize my team needs me more today than yesterday, and that is the true gift of leadership.  When your family, friends, and colleagues walk into the room to face a challenge, and they are glad you are there to help, that is when you are leading fearlessly.

Being on a journey is longer than getting to a destination. Your leadership journey is like jumping on the Acela train bound for New York City.  You may think Penn Station is the destination, but in reality, that is where the journey simply begins.  Your leadership journey will bring you places you never knew existed, to meet people you don’t understand, to tackle problems you don’t know how to solve.  And therein lies the beauty, your journey will push you in ways that makes you stronger and less fearful.

First, places you never knew existed – this made me think of my inaugural global trip of my career.  At this point in my life, I hadn’t traveled outside the US before, so the trip was new for a lot of reasons, but my wakeup call was when I worked with my colleagues in the United Kingdom, France and Germany and I was quickly met with “that’s not how we do it here.”  My plan went from very well thought out to blown up in six words through two translators. And that brings me to the second thing about people you don’t understand, we were working for the same company, so why didn’t they want to follow my “excellent” plan?

In that moment the three elements of fear began to set in and consume my being – fear of failure, uncertainty about what to do and doubt that I had the skills to solve this new problem. Well, I was early in my journey and luckily my leader John was with me and he was further along his leadership journey.  He grabbed the reigns, brought his fearless leadership to the situation and helped me navigate the international peace process, which was mostly listening and then reasserting most of the original plan.  I guess the Europeans weren’t as against my plan as I had thought, I think they were not thrilled with my advocacy for the plan and lack of listening and inquiry.  A sincere thanks to John for coaching me from Penn Station to Piccadilly Circle while riding on the London Tube – more about coaching and mentoring later in b LEGENDARY.

Imagine having the opportunity every day to assist a teammate for the game-winning goal and to celebrate victory as a team.  Accepting the gift of leadership gives you that opportunity every day.  And your team stretches across all aspects of your life – your family, friends, colleagues, and community members. Your assist is like a spark of electricity sending positive vibes and waves across teammates. That’s the gift of leadership the ability to positively impact the lives of many. As solitary individuals we impact a limited number of people, but as we make the daily decision to be a leader, the impact becomes exponential.  (More on the exponential effect in b IMPACTFUL.)

I’m also convinced that at some point along everyone’s leadership journey, the joy from victory changes from scoring the winning goal to assisting the winning goal. As a young leader, I loved being the go-to, the shooter – I wanted the mic, the ball in my hands with two seconds left on the clock.  Honestly, I wanted the spotlight.  But as I traveled deeper into my leadership journey, I truly became enamored with drawing double coverage and dumping off to a teammate for the winning goal.  I enjoyed kicking a project off but loved handing it over to a young leader to work through.  I saw it as a gift to help others grow and develop and accomplish extraordinary things. And if you like shooting, wait to your journey transforms you from scorer-to-assists leader because I can promise you this – in life, with your family, friends, colleagues, and community, you will have far more chances to assist and you will make a much bigger impact on the world as a leader.  Sharing your gift is truly the greatest gift imaginable.