What is Your Leadership Impact?
The origin of the work “impact” comes from the Latin word impingere, which means “to push against.” The online dictionary has three definitions of impact that relate directly to the concept of leadership impact:
- “influence; effect,”
- “the force exerted by a new idea, concept, technology, or ideology,” and
- “the power of making a strong, immediate impression.”
Whether you see yourself as a leader or not, you are having an impact on the world. Your every breath, every movement, every word, every interaction, and every thought have an impact on something or someone else.
Have you heard of the butterfly effect? In 1961, Edward Lorenz was using a numerical computer model to rerun a weather prediction, when, as a shortcut on a number in the sequence, he entered the decimal .506 instead of entering the full .506127. The result was a completely different weather scenario.
Lorenz published his findings in a paper in 1963 noting that “One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a seagull’s wings could change the course of weather forever.”
This was later referred to as the butterfly affect. Its’ the classic stimulus-response theory: simply put, for every stimulus there is a response, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. “Impact” is just a less clinical way of saying “stimulus-response.”
Impact falls on a continuum (see The Impact Continuum below). Sometimes the impact is seemingly small, goes unnoticed, or is difficult to measure such as the swaying of a wheat field caused by a gentle breeze, the blooming of a rose, the daily consistency of an employee committed to getting the work done, holding your child’s hand while walking down the street, or touching another person on the shoulder.
Sometimes the impact is extreme, such as the effect of an earthquake, a family argument, a car collision, one country’s declaration of war on another or the laying off of a company’s employees.
The Impact Continuum
|Unnoticeable||Barely Noticeable||Very Noticeable||Extremely Noticeable|
As an example of impact, everything an individual, partnership, family, business, corporation, organization, community, city, or country does has an impact on others – large or small, noticeable or unnoticeable, measurable or immeasurable. Just look at how society has changed since you were born and the impact of advances in technology, science, and research.
Regardless of your leadership role or your situation in life, you have a responsibility to notice your impact. This is the leadership role that every human being is called to accept.
For the next week, notice everything you are doing – having a conversation, working on a project, making a decision, walking down the street, eating a meal, taking a breath – and ask yourself:
- What is your impact on the world around you while engaged in this activity?
- What impressions are you leaving with others?
- What difference did your impact make? To yourself? To others?
- What actions will you take from this exercise?
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