My Favorite Peer Leadership Story by Leo Bottary
Before I start, let me share why it’s my favorite peer leadership story. It happened more than 20 years ago and features my daughter, who was just four years-old back then. It’s not only quite personal, but also, after years of studying leadership, it’s stood the test of time.
There was a Halloween party at her childcare center and, as usual, I picked her up at the end of the day. When I arrived, I asked if she was ready to come home, and the woman at the desk said that the director wanted to see me first. Now for those of you who’ve ever heard those words, you’re probably thinking that my initial reaction was that something must be up – and it probably wasn’t good.
Turns out, the director came out with a big smile on her face and said she wanted to tell me a story. That day, a “witch” came to the center to “entertain” the kids at their Halloween party. Apparently, the witch looked a little too authentic for some of the preschoolers; so when she arrived, many of the children got really scared and began to cry. The teachers tried to reassure the class that everything was OK, but the kids weren’t buying it. The crying spread like a wildfire. It was at this moment that my daughter got up from being seated on the floor, walked up to the front of the room, put both arms above her head, and exclaimed to the class, “She’s not real! There’s no need to be afraid.” A near immediate calm fell upon the room. My daughter provided the reassurance that the teachers could not.
Now translate this to your own organization. Think back to a time when your co-workers reassured one another in a fashion that the leadership could not – at least by itself. Imagine what you might do to facilitate that kind of communication the next time you make a big announcement or have to deal with a crisis. Consider also that my daughter’s story isn’t only about peer credibility. It’s a simple reminder that leadership isn’t about power, position, or even age. It’s about those moments in life when you need to step up and do what has to be done. If a four-year old can do it, so can you. It may not be as scary as you think!