Modeling Leadership

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

Too often people associate leadership with a status to be earned, or a title that bestows power. Certainly, under some circumstances, those definitions are accurate. But I like to think of leadership differently.

There is a belief that I hold dear—we all can be leaders, and each of us has our own unique brand of leadership to contribute to the world. The question is if, when, and how we actually ever step into that leadership.

Because leadership, from that perspective, has nothing to do with a job title or position. Instead of a status, leadership is your way of interacting with the world. Leadership is your contribution to every interaction, every relationship, every group you are a part of. Leadership is how you choose to live your life. Sometimes that leadership might roar, and sometimes it might whisper. Sometimes it is a speech from a bull horn, and sometimes it is a quiet glance.

So, the quiet co-worker who stays in their cubicle and doesn’t ever talk at staff meetings? That co-worker might best step into their leadership by working hard to provide the platform for another to speak. The college student who has a developing passion for art? That student might best step into their leadership by showing younger students that you can follow your dreams. The full-time mom who juggles the schedules of multiple children? That mom might best step into her leadership by ensuring that those children never go a day without knowing they are loved.  There are as many ways to step into leadership as there are people living on this earth.

Finding our leadership is about finding our best selves, and then figuring out how and where to contribute our best selves to the world. Stepping into our leadership is about having the courage to do just that. Stepping into our leadership means loving who we are, and having the courage and vulnerability to share who we are with the world, without apology.

And how do we model leadership for the youth that we serve? Once we’ve fully stepped into our own leadership, we can point out how our leadership might look different than the leadership displayed by those to our right and those to our left. The more “ways to be a leader” that we can point out to our youth, the more readily they will be able to discover what their brand of leadership is and begin to step into that for themselves. Sometimes that is easier to see than others, so we can also help our youth by pointing out, and praising, those moments when they are being fully authentic and expressing their own unique thoughts, ideas, passions, and creativity to the group. Being a mirror to our youth, showing them what gifts they bring to our programs, can go a long way in helping them start to see that for themselves.   


Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.