Leadership is about helping others shine their light


There is a famous poem written by Marianne Williamson and recited in an address by Nelson Mandela that admonishes every person to shine their light so that others may shine theirs. Here is a piece from that inspirational poem, entitled “Our Deepest Fear:”

…..as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

When people hold themselves back and do not offer the wonders of who they are to the world, they have missed the opportunity to help others find the courage to shine their own lights.

This is the true essence of leadership: helping others shine their lights. To do this the leader must be willing to be the best that he or she can be, and must be willing to shine.

Ms. Williamson writes, “…We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? ….,” to which she answers: …Who are you not to be? …..Your playing small does not serve the world.” The point is obvious: holding ourselves back does not help the world in any way, and good leaders know this. The world needs every person to live up to his or her potential, and a skillful leader can help each person he or she sees each day to feel comfortable in their own light.

As an illustration, imagine that “Eugene” is the CEO of a company that makes a certain kind of technology. He is an enlightened (some say “transformative”) leader, who is willing to listen to new ideas and to help his employees find their own best answers.

One day one of his new recruits, “Tony,” gingerly knocks on Eugene’s door. He hesitantly asks if he can sit down, and then tells Eugene, in haltingly diplomatic words, that he has found an unforeseen glitch in one of the products that the company produces. He apologetically asks if there is something he doesn’t understand, and feels like a failure because he can’t do his job in the presence of the glitch.

Eugene has several options here, one of which is to thank Tony and tell him he will look into it later. Another option, however, is to ask Tony to explain more about what he has found, and then to ask him if he has any ideas on how to fix the problem.

When Eugene does this, he is giving a Tony a great gift. He is not only declaring that Tony has brought him an issue that is worth discussion, but he is acknowledging that Tony is a person worth discussing it with. Whether or not Tony has an idea about resolving the problem is not the point. The point is that when Tony leaves the office, he will be one step closer to embracing his own inner light, because Eugene was the type of leader who knew how to create an atmosphere that acknowledged his employee.

A true leader will be comfortable enough within themselves to allow others to shine. A true leader inspires others to be the best that they can be, and provides the guidance and sometimes just the opportunity to let them test their ideas in a safe space. This is how true leaders help to create leaders – by giving them the room to be as big as they can be.

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2 thoughts on “Leadership is about helping others shine their light

  1. Great post, Ric. It is not easy to be a true leader for it requires a great deal of confidence and selflessness to allow others to shine.

  2. Pingback: Five Tips for Business Blogging « GREAT MENTOR

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