Why Leaders Need to Live Small Even While Dreaming Big

Published February 25, 2020

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Leading OthersServant Leadership

In a culture that tells leaders to “dream big,” it’s important to remember that your greatest impact often comes when you “live small.”

It’s leadership from the heart, and it usually involves impact at a one-on-one level.

Living small means having a cadence to your leadership that allows you to respond to opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life. It’s leadership from the heart, and it usually involves impact at a one-on-one level.

  • It’s having the sensitivity to notice when a teammate’s shoulders are sagging, and then taking the time to listen.
  • It’s coming across a motorist having car trouble and when everyone else is angrily honking their horns, it’s pulling over and offering to help.
  • It’s suddenly remembering an old friend from years ago, and rather than dismissing the memory, it’s picking up your phone and giving them a call—just to connect.

 

It’s these, and a thousand more moments that define what it means for a leader to live small.

Which is not to suggest that a leader should not dream big, embrace, as Jim Collins would say, “Big Hairy Audacious Goals, and strive to accomplish great things.

But along the way, leaders must always be aware that their greatest impact takes place in the “in between” moments of life.

Several years ago I was part of a team organizing a large leadership conference in Canada. The event was some 18 months in the planning, and exceeded every attendance and financial expectation.

…your legacy might well have more to do with your “live small” moments than it will with your “dream big” accomplishments.

During the event, I found myself dashing through the lobby of the venue on my way to fulfill some important task. As I raced along, a conference guest approached me and asked me if he could speak with me. He recognized me as an event organizer, and I could see that he seemed a bit emotional.

My first instinct was to simply say that, truthfully, I was busy at the moment. But fortunately, I managed to catch my breath, to pause and to listen to what he had to say. In essence, he simply needed to share with someone that, during this conference, he had made a life-altering decision. I needed only to listen with care and understanding.

I genuinely don’t remember anything else about that conference. As big a deal as the event was, my lasting memory is of this “living small” moment. It’s of a moment when I had the remarkable opportunity to deposit a small amount of compassion, which might have had a significant impact.

As a leader, how do you live small, even as you dream big?

 

1. Slow down

Very little of lasting impact happens when you are living at Lightning speed.

 

2. Move around

You can’t impact a life sitting alone at your desk.

 

3. Be inquisitive

Dreaming big often requires talking. Living small requires listening.

 

As a leader you have been trained to shoot for the stars, to grab the brass ring and to change the world.

And you should.

Just remember, your legacy might well have more to do with your “live small” moments than it will with your “dream big” accomplishments.

About the Author
Scott Cochrane

Scott Cochrane

Vice President of International

Global Leadership Network

Scott Cochrane serves as Vice President of International at the Global Leadership Network. An insightful and genuine leader, he travels the globe mentoring international teams. Prior to joining the GLN, he was the executive pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Kelowna, British Columbia, and provided leadership to the Global Leadership Network Canada.

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