As my cousin and I were driving home from our roadtrip to New Mexico, we had the Ted Radio Hour blasting in the car. The conversation of the week was entitled “Disruptive Leadership” and it was all about the different ways people from around the world have taught leadership, been in a leadership position, or how they viewed leadership. The different perspectives were enlightening, but there was one that made an enormous impact on me. The point that this man was drilling into our minds was the concept of “everyday leadership”-meaning, the little things that you do every single day that actually end up making the biggest difference in the lives of others. He claimed that we have made leadership out to be something that is bigger than ourselves; starting an organization, running a company, or opening up a non-profit. But in reality, being a leader is doing small things to others that might mean nothing to you, but are inconceivably influential to their personal human experience.
Telling someone that they have a beautiful smile might mean that they never wipe it off of their face. Remembering someone’s name after just one encounter might make them feel like they actually matter. Taking the time to bring someone up who is usually brought down might change their mind about the love they think they deserve.
As these examples were flooding my mind, I had a massive epiphany. I realized that all of the people who mean the most to me in my life, the people who I have such an enormous amount of respect and love in my heart for, are the people who took the time to say something to me or do something for me that that was so incredibly small, but carried the biggest weight. And what’s interesting is these people are not always the ones you spend the most time with; many of the friends we make are study buddies, jam buddies, or people who you just love their company. But the individuals who have made the biggest impact on you, are sometimes the ones who you only talk to in passing, or who you have actually only met once.
For example, this past November… I was 4 months deep into my first semester of college, drowning in stress, riding the day to day rollercoaster of being a music student… and I was standing in line at the dining hall. All of a sudden, one of the beautiful women in my music therapy program came up to me and gave me one of the biggest hugs I have ever received in my life. We stood there for probably an entire minute, tightly embraced, for absolutely no reason. It came completely out of nowhere, and as I was standing there, I realized that this was actually the first real hug I had been given since I said goodbye to my parents on that first day of school. I had no idea how much I had needed a simple hug until that moment. She pulled away from me, looked me in the face, and said “I love you more than I could ever describe.”
And that was it. That was our entire interaction for that period of time. There was no real reason for why she did that, she just felt like it. And that hug got me through that week, it got me through that semester, and it impacted me enough to be telling the tale to this day. And the best part?
She probably doesn’t even remember that moment.
These little things contribute so much to someone’s sense of self worth and confidence. Being a freshman in Jazz 1 this year, I was never sure if I was performing to the standard of my peers, and I often felt inadequate simply because of my age. But one of my friends in that ensemble made the effort to come up to me after every rehearsal and tell me one thing that he admired about my playing that day, no matter how small it was. He seemed to notice everything I did, and he recalled things that I played that I couldn’t even remember doing. Those simple compliments gave me the courage to work even harder and the serenity to play whatever came to mind.
And how often do we tell these people how much they have impacted our lives? How often do we let them know how much they enabled our success, which then might have inspired the success of others… a cycle that truly never ends. The second we open our mouth to bring someone up, there is no telling how many other people will be brought up with them. By letting our leaders know the influence they have had on us, we are perpetuating everyday leadership, the kind of guidance that has the most profoundly positive effects.
Lin Manuel Miranda claims that “everyday has the potential to be the best day of your life.” And I realize more than ever how true this actually is in regard to this concept of leadership. Often times the days that change our lives, are the days that are just like any other day. The best day of your life might be when a girl at the lunch table finds the courage to ask you to sit with her, because that was the day you met your best friend. The best day of your life might be when you went to the market to buy peanut butter and bread, because that’s when you first encountered and asked out your future wife. The best day of your life might be when you walked by a street performer, because that’s when you were first inspired to inquire about music as a career.
It’s the littlest things that make the biggest difference.
It’s the average days that end up being the most memorable.
It’s the seemingly small people that have the most profound impact on your heart.
Leadership is not bigger than us, it is us. It is us reaching out to others, sharing a piece of our heart, and uniting under the human condition.
Let’s speak everyday with the intention to raise someone up, to make them feel their best. Let’s do things for others that take 2 seconds out of our precious schedule. You may never even remember a moment that changed someone’s life, you may never even know of a moment that changed someone’s life… because touching someone is a ripple that has no end.
Investing in the human experience is the greatest decision one could make.
I will get off of my soapbox now.
Remember to Love. Always.
*If you would like to contribute to my educational fund, you can read my story and donate at https://www.gofundme.com/hannahlentztuitionfund. Anything is appreciated!