One day my assistant informed me over the intercom, “There is a Cadet Green on line two. I think you’ll want to talk to him.”
That was my introduction to Cadet Shawn Green, U.S. Air Force Academy.
The Air Force Academy had been in the papers a great deal lately for various challenges it was facing, and none of the recent news had been positive.
Shawn Green called to tell me he had read my first book, The Fred Factor. He believed the book offered a message that needed to be shared at the Academy. So he took the initiative to call me out of the blue to ask if I would be willing to come and speak. “I’m just a person who wants to make things better,” he told me.
This exceptional individual was undaunted by the challenge of contacting people he didn’t know who he thought could help. He couldn’t afford to pay the people he was contacting to appear. In fact, he actually had to get official approval for us to appear for free. Cadet Green didn’t have a title, but he was certainly a leader.
As a result of his bold request, both best-selling author Stephen Covey and I came to speak to the incoming class of freshman cadets. Meeting so many of the best of the best who were determined to serve their country was a memorable experience, one that I will not soon forget.
People who lead—whether or not they have a title—strive to make things better.
We all want to have an impact on the world around us. No one wants to be blown sideways in life by forces they can’t control. Part of growing up is figuring out how much influence we have over our environment, from parents to friends, from school to careers.
Our choices in life have a huge impact on the kind of education we get, the kinds of jobs we land, the relationships we develop and become involved in, and the quality of the lives we live. The desire to influence the world around us is what real leadership is all about.
Do you believe you make a difference?
When you first look in the mirror in the morning, do you say to yourself, “Today, I’m going to change the world?”
And yet we do change history every day, not just for ourselves but for our families, communities, employers and country. Some of the ways we affect change are significant (landing a huge account, raising money for charity, helping to coach a youth soccer team). Others are small (letting someone merge ahead of us in traffic, taking an interest in a colleague who needs someone to listen). But none are trivial.
I’m not suggesting that simple acts of courtesy in and of themselves constitute acts of leadership. Yet leaders, untitled or otherwise, realize the extraordinary impact we can have on others and the world around us. They consciously choose to exercise their abilities, skills, and knowledge to help make a difference.
Fred Shea, my former postal carrier, had no formal title, yet he has made a tremendous difference to the people on his route, and those who have read his story and been inspired by his example. “Freds” lead, usually by choice but sometimes without even knowing it.
You might not consider yourself a “leader” (at least in the formal sense) yet if you desire to make a bigger and better difference in the lives of those around you—those you live and work with—I hope you’ll visit www.youdontneedatitle.com, take advantage of the resources there, and purchase and read my new book (Available in better book stores everywhere and online atAmazon.com.). You’ll learn the essence of leadership and be better equipped to be a difference-maker, whether or not you have a title.
© 2006. Mark Sanborn. All rights reserved. Please contact us if you’d like to reprint this article.
Fred @ Work
Fred at School
|Nominate a FredHelp us acknowledge the Freds that we all encounter on a daily basis whether through work or in our lives outside of work. Please use the nomination form found here to tell us your Fred’s story. And please, tell a story not just, “I nominate Joe because he’s a great guy,” but tell us what actions of Joe’s make him a Fred. This kind of information will help us all become more Fred-like by providing us specific ideas and actions that we can model in our own lives. It’s a Fred-like activity in and of itself!|
Editor’s Note: We were caught up in the enthusiasm with which English teacher, Vikki Carter, nominated her Principal and basically everyone else at her new school in Blackshear, Georgia. Thanks Vikki; your nomination(s) is noted!
I would just like to say that I just completed reading THE FRED FACTOR and am very inspired. Not only am I inspired by this wonderful book, but I am also inspired by the school in which I teach.
You see, I have been a teacher for fourteen years. Just this year, my family relocated to Blackshear, Georgia where I am now a teacher at Pierce County Middle School. This school is the most “unreal” utopia of a school I have EVER experienced (I am an English teacher and this is NOT a hyperbole)! This place is FULL of Freds!!!
It starts at the top with our Principal, Terri DeLoach and trickles down to every person from visitor, to parent, to custodian. Never have I taught in a school where I can hardly wait to get out of bed each morning and come to work, and it is because of the Freds in this place.
I would love to invite you and any of your other readers to come and visit our school of Freds in Blackshear, Georgia! Mr. Sanborn, you are absolutely right when you say that Freds attract other Freds! Thank you for recognizing an outstanding person and servant in such a special way!