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How We Become The Leaders We Are Through The Years: Why Everyday Leadership Matters.

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

I credit my early childhood education and exposure to a rich cultural diversity in my island home of Jamaica, for the foundation on which I support and grow my abilities to lead today. You see, I had a bit of a nomadic childhood, living in various parishes around the island at a very young age and like the osmosis process I gradually and unconscisouly began assimilating ideas and knowledge during these changes. And, my dad who worked in the hotel industry would take me to visit at work and sometimes he would bring guests home to our home for dinner. Jamaica had tourism program,

Meet the People, where guests to the island were invited to spend time with locals in their homes. I enjoyed some of those fun experiences as a teenager never realizing the influence it would have on my future career choice. My attitude to life and leadership behaviors were shaped by many of these multi-cultural experiences which gave me the green light to become somewhat of an explorer of people and places.

As an insanely curious person I adapted the mantra "Yes, now what is the question?" in my first year of holding down a job at the Front Desk of the swanky Half Moon Hotel in Montego Bay. I was everywhere, doing everything. Making mistakes, recovering from them and pushing forward. Never afraid to tackle never before tried job tasks, handling the stays of some very famous people; and I was hardly 18 years old, green and straight out of high school. These tasks I undertook by jumping in without a life vest, were what showed me I could become a leader. And it was around this same time that I received the best gift ever, my introduction to informal mentoring.

I instinctively learned who the heavy hitters were around me, and closely watched what they did, how they treated people, and how others viewed them. That is how I found my first mentors, who later became lifelong friends and advisors. The genuine care for me by these few, inspired, influenced, taught and guided me to become the leader I am today.

I know its been said a thousand times that teachers influence our young minds in extraordinary ways, and this too is true for me. Outside of my home, I believe my first recognition of what "empathy" was the feeling I felt in the presence of my Primary School teacher, Mrs. Atterbury. Of course at 9 years-old I had no idea a word called "empathy" existed. She gifted me the understanding of empathy and kindness through her attentiveness to my learning with one on one voluntary tutoring, and I hope that I have paid it forward through expressions of genuine interest in the development of others.

That being said, I recognize that I am a Consciously Imperfect Leader. I have and never will be "all things for all people!" Its' just impossible. I feel stretched every day between high expectations and the reality of the moment.

Forbes describes a Consciously Imperfect Leader as the following:(Forbes Coaching Council)

  • You understand what drives your behaviors and actions

  • You become aware of your own needs first so you can notice the needs of others

  • You escape conformity to lead congruent with your values

  • You allow yourself to be vulnerable

  • You find the courage to rely on others to compensate for any missing skill

  • Acknowledge both your strengths and weaknesses

  • Fuel curiosity to move from executing to leading

A failure of mine at certain points in my career was focusing on executing the objective rather than inspiring those around me to lead the way in achieving the objective. But, I was never too proud to admit when I had made such a miscalculation and quickly course corrected. I am fully aware of my blind spots and once I learned to better use my strengths to compensate for the things I am not good at, my stress level went down. You know how sometimes one is assigned some unattainable goals and are not brave enough to say "this will absolutely not work" and instead we sheepishly say yes and work ourselves into the ground to make lemonade out of those lemons?

I take risks, I lose and I push on until I succeed or sometimes fail. I have often done this quietly, choosing not to be vulnerable. As I progressed in my leadership roles I came to realize more and more that leadership is not about being in a position of power or authority; its' about being vulnerable at times, supporting, mentoring, and empowering others to influence change in small and big ways. Realizing that everything we do is observed, picked apart, labelled and judged by others I conclude we simply need to be mindful of how we treat others while being our authentic selves, and that it is necessary we begin to recognize that engaging in everyday leadership behaviors is really the building block for greater leadship potential.

Its' as simple as when I have gone to my neighborhood restaurant where I order the roasted salmon consistently and one time it came a bit underdone. I asked my server, Gonzague to please have it cooked through a bit more! I am the rare person who does not enjoy sushi:) Without hesitation and great apology he fixed it immediately. Notably on this evening there was no usual manager present and he unhesitatingly offered not only a sincere apology but also a complimentary beverage or side order of fries (they know I love fries). I was proud of him that he took the initiative without a manager present to own the breakdown and act decisively to fix it. It's a mom and pop spot and I don't expect them to give things away; an apology was sufficient but they offered and I was blown away. My server acted decisively and compassionately and reinforced why I will always return. For me its these little things that signal one's future potential to lead.

Learning to lower the temperature at the lowest level helps prevent escalation that is often costly. Working at Ritz Carlton, the centerpiece of our success as a brand, in my opinion, was our focus on "Employee Empowerment." Creating an environment of trust and empowering employees at the lowest level to own the right to a positive business outcome through their action is priceless. Just yesterday I was speaking with a long time guest of Ritz-Carlton and she shared the story of receiving flowers a day after hurriedly leaving an event at a RC hotel on learning of her father's death. This was 14 years ago and she still remembers the impact of that small gesture. These moments of action by all of us are what I consider "everyday leadership in action."

I am forever inspired by the positive impact my early mentors had on my life and how much I value their guidance to this day. People watch what we do every day, the great moments and the ones we screw up unintentionally. I watched my mentors before I labelled them mentors. I cherish the relationships because I realized that at times I was the one offering advice to them. I admired their mix of compassion and tough love.


"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant." – Robert Louis Stevenson

Lastly, don't think of Leadership as "otherworldly" something that is unattainable, something that is granted. Leadership is not about CEO's and Presidents. Everyday leadership is when an individual who, regardless of formal title or authority, influences others to achieve shared objectives for the good of the whole. It is us in ACTION in our everyday lives.

We don't attain "leadership" and move on, it is a continous process of learning every day to be better!

Here is a great TED talk on "Everyday Leadership.

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