Everyone leads.

November 11th, 2011

While the idea that we are all leaders is a personal belief, Everyone Leads is the title of a new book by Paul Schmitz, CEO of Public Allies, a national organization that has helped thousands of young leaders passionate about making a difference develop and  launch careers working for community and social change.

I picked up my copy of “Everyone Leads: Building Leadership from the Community Up” Tuesday night at the New York City party celebrating its launch and had a chance to catch up with Paul. I was curious about the origins of the title and its meaning for him. Was it a credo at Public Allies?

Paul said it was a phrase he used often at Public Allies to reframe the idea of leadership. From his point of view, leadership was not a position one holds, but rather an action one takes. That action, I wondered, doesn’t it begin truly from within? Don’t we all determine our own thoughts; decide what beliefs we accept that, in turn, inspire us to take action?

“Yes, personal values and building character are important first steps,” Paul replied. He told me he I’d enjoy the third chapter of “Everyone Leads” where he talks about Be Know Do: Leadership the Army Way (2004), a book adapted from the official Army Leadership Manual. He was right. Aside from busting a few myths on the stereotype of army leadership training, I marveled at what I learned about the army’s philosophy and approach: a focus on self and one’s values are at the core of leadership.

“Everyone Leads” may have been written with a focus on how to lead communities, but its principles of leadership can be (dare I say should be?) applied to further the success of any organization. Here are the three facets of leadership as Paul and Public Allies define it:

1)    Leadership is an action everyone can take, not a position only a few can hold.

2)    It’s about taking personal and social responsibility to work with others in achieving common goals.

3)    It’s the practice of values that engage diverse individuals and groups to work together effectively.

And along the same line of thinking as “a good idea can come from anywhere,” the process of leadership that inspires, influences and engages others for a common purpose can come from anyone. Or, as Paul says, from everyone. This is one book from which everyone can learn. And lead.

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