As a child, did you ever go to the beach and marvel at the big footprints your parents made? They had a much longer stride and made a much deeper impression in the sand. It was such fun leaping from one footprint to the next, trying to fit your small foot inside the much larger imprint of someone you looked up to.
That behaviour never changes. As adults, we still follow someone’s footsteps. All of us look for someone to follow, someone to add value to our lives. We search for them either consciously or unconsciously.
The challenge is, as we get older, we forget to look down and be mindful of the footsteps we’re following. What is their pace, their stride? Does it suit our rhythm? Are the feet the same size as ours or are they different? How do they fit with our own style of walking?
In other words, do the footsteps we follow serve us and take us where we want or need to go?
Often, we follow the footsteps of someone we consider to be a leader. This could be a leader within an organisation or simply someone we admire and respect. But when we talk about following a leader or becoming a leader worth following ourselves, it’s important to remember that leaders are a mix of blunder, wonder and thunder.
It’s an interesting combination. Leaders aren’t perfect. They make mistakes and they do blunder. It’s how they deal with these blunders and use these valuable lessons to help themselves and their own followers grow that matters.
Leaders inspire wonder in their followers. I’m sure you’ve looked up to someone before and thought, “Wow, that person is just amazing!” No doubt they were amazing, but they’re still human. And that’s a good thing; it makes them relatable, which is important to building trust. However, we also must be mindful of that aspect of their leadership. As a friend of mine, Georgia Murch, often says, you are “flawsome”. This clever play on words recognises that we are all beautiful and broken simultaneously.
Leaders also carry an element of thunder. They are the people who lead others in their desire to change and shape the world. They’re not necessarily loud in terms of their voice or appearance, but in their words and actions. They command attention, they make an impact. Take, for example, Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule. He wasn’t a loud person, yet his words echoed and changed a nation’s future. His footsteps continue to leave their mark on the world today.
In the middle of this overlap of wonder, blunder and thunder is the real leader. She or he is not perfect. They don’t have all the answers. But they have the power to inspire, guide and meet their followers’ needs.
So, when you look at the footsteps you are following, consider how these three elements balance and overlap. What footprints do they create? How deep is the imprint? Do they take you where you want to go? Or do they cause you to stumble and go off track?
Be kind, be well, be true, be you.