When someone asks you this question, what is your first response?

Most people would think – ‘me, a leader? Nah, I’m just an ordinary person who goes on about my work’.

If you are managing a team at work, you are a leader in some way. If not, do you still consider yourself a leader?

Whether you manage people or are a part of a team at work, whether you are single or have a family, every single day, your actions inspire others. Think about that time when you did something that was not required of you, at work. What about the times when you showed your children how to run the household efficiently? Or that time when your friend needed your support and you were there in an instant?

If you pause and contemplate, there are numerous occasions when you have stepped up to do what is required of you – without being asked. That is what leadership is about. (Even picking rubbish off the street when no one was watching you).

There are also times when we are quick to blame others before we can examine ourselves.

Parents ask children to not spend hours on their device but are glued to their phones. Or the times when children are asked to eat healthily and adults don’t really pay attention to how they fuel their bodies.

How about at work, when your project is almost due and everyone is stressed, the blame is on the team leader even though the team couldn’t do their part?

Back in India, through my years of education, we studied a lot about Gandhi. This particular story comes to mind when I talk about leadership.

A woman and her young son had come to the ashram to speak to Gandhi. She complained about her child’s addiction to sugar. “My son won’t stop eating sugar”, she told Gandhi. She asked if Gandhi could please tell him to stop. Gandhi listened to her and then asked her to come back in two weeks.

Two weeks later the woman and her child sat in front of Gandhi. He looked at the boy and said “stop eating sugar”. The mother was confused. “Why couldn’t you have told him this two weeks ago?”, she asked. Gandhi replied, “Ma’m, two weeks ago I was still eating sugar”.

This story highlights the importance of looking inwards and being conscious, as humans and leaders. Personal leadership needs to be honest and compassionate – both to others and to ourselves.

What can you take away from this story?

– When you ask someone to do something, ask yourself first – am I doing this? Remember, it is easier to advise than follow.

– Whether it is at work or at home, lead from the heart. Don’t use your position and level of authority to demand something that you don’t do.

– Finally, be honest and take steps to improve yourself. It takes a lot of courage to look within and keep growing. Your team will only respect you for being a role model.

Much love and compassion.