“If your actions inspire others to dream more,
learn more, do more and become more,
you are a leader.”

— John Quincy Adams


We recently had a conversation with some young adults who we know through our young adult children. They are amazing young people with great passion and integrity. In our conversation, several of them talked about their belief that leadership is a role and that the people who pursue that role are power-hungry and self-absorbed. Since we had just read this John Quincy Adams quote, we pulled it out and had a rich and wonderful conversation about leadership.

As many of you know, we believe that leadership is a way of being in the world—regardless of role or title. We define leadership as “a willingness to influence your world and to be influenced by your world.”

For this group of young adults, this was an entirely new way to think about themselves, their leadership, and the leadership of others. Adding the John Quincy Adams quote to the conversation further deepened the exploration of the importance of leadership.

Here are some of the things they said:

“I have always thought I could be a leader but didn’t want to be seen as arrogant. If by showing up and influencing others and being influenced by others, I can inspire people, I’m in.”

“I love this quote. I’m committed to social justice but I don’t want to do for others, I want to inspire them to take action, to learn, and to shape their communities. I’m a leader and I’m going to pursue more growth in my leadership!”

“I have never thought of myself as a leader. And yet, people follow me. I think I inspire them. Not because I’m so smart or special but because I’m passionate about my job, I love our customers, and I want the best for everyone who comes to work with us.”

“I work in a high-tech company and have never thought of leadership as inspiring—more as a necessary evil—but when I look at my current boss I know that she has to focus on results and bottom-line, but while doing so she always has our backs. She is committed to our growth, and she is interested in what we are looking for from our future. She is exactly what John Quincy Adams called a leader.”

“You have changed my mind. It’s time for me to step up and stop standing around waiting for someone else to lead. This quote will be my guide—to inspire others to dream more, to learn more, to do more, and to become more. I’m gonna be a leader!”

This week, take a few minutes to reflect on your leadership. It is not about a role or title but how you show up in the world. It’s buying a glass of lemonade from the young kids down the street and cheering on their entrepreneurial spirit, it’s helping your team see their contributions to the success of the organization, it’s helping your aging parent take action on their health needs.

The world needs your leadership.

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