In a culture that tells leaders to “dream big”, it’s important to remember that your greatest impact often comes when you “live small”.
Living small means having a cadence to your leadership that allows you to respond to opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life. It’s leadership from the heart, and it usually involves impact at a one-on-one level.
- It’s having the sensitivity to notice when a teammate’s shoulders are sagging, and then taking the time to listen.
- It’s coming across a motorist having car trouble, and when everyone else is angrily honking their horns, it’s pulling over and offering to help.
- It’s suddenly remembering an old friend from years ago, and rather than dismissing the memory, it’s picking up your phone and giving them a call…just to connect.
It’s these, and a thousand more moments that define what it means for a leader to live small.
Several years ago I was part of a team organizing a large leadership conference in Canada. The event was some 18 months in the planning, and exceeded every attendance and financial expectation.
During the event itself I found myself dashing through the lobby of the venue on my way to fulfill some important task. As I raced along, a conference guest approached me and asked me if he could speak with me. He recognized me as an event organizer, and I could see that he seemed a bit emotional.
In essence, he simply needed to share with someone that, during this conference, he had made a life-altering decision. I needed only to listen with care and understanding.
My lasting memory of this entire conference is of this “living small” moment. It’s of a moment when I had the remarkable opportunity to deposit a small amount of compassion, which might have had a significant impact.
As a leader, how do you live small, even as you dream big?
1. Slow down
Very little of lasting impact happens when you are living at mach 10.
2. Move around
You can’t impact a life sitting alone at your desk.
3. Be inquisitive
Dreaming big often requires talking. Living small requires listening.
As a leader you have been trained to shoot for the stars, to grab the brass ring, and to change the world.
And you should.
Just remember, your legacy might well have more to do with your “living small” moments than it will with your “dreaming big” accomplishments.