Imagine standing before a lecture hall full of eager students ready to learn what it takes to succeed in business. They’re practically salivating at the thought of hearing you share the one or two top traits needed to rise to the top ranks of any business or industry at breakneck speed, surpassing all of their counterparts and leaving the “would-bes” in the dust. They want to know how to make it into the million-dollar club with the corner window office faster than they can send a tweet.

Although I’m inspired by their gusto, I’m even more impressed by their willingness to learn that at the core of success is leadership. And leadership isn’t necessarily what they thought it was.

For the past ten years I have been blessed with the opportunity to guest lecture at both Emory University and the University of Georgia. It continues to amaze me that very intelligent young men and women at these fine institutions struggle to define leadership. The definition that I have used for decades, and I have also heard John Maxwell use, is that leadership = influence. If you are in a position to influence someone else then you are in a leadership role. Since Mr. Maxwell has sold millions of books on the subject, perhaps he came up with the definition a week or so before I did, but regardless of who coined the phrase, it’s still a pretty good definition.

Given this very broad definition of leadership, then leadership is taking place all over the world on various levels. Leaders are making their mark in student government associations, PTA’s, churches and businesses around the globe. In fact, with this broad definition, leadership is no longer the private domain of business titans and political figures. Perhaps the most influential leadership role of all, that of being a parent, has nothing to do with politics or business. Leadership is all around us.

I was born in New Orleans and the word “Lagniappe” is very familiar to me. It is a Cajun term for “a little something extra”. As a kid, my mom told me lagniappe is when you ask for a dozen doughnuts and the baker puts thirteen in the bag. Its’ that little something extra. (And you always go back to that bakery.)

Great leaders do the little things that other leaders don’t do.  Great leaders remember other people’s names.  Great leaders celebrate the little victories. You will always go the extra mile for the leader that says “please” and “thank you”. Great leaders ask questions that others don’t, such as “what do you think?” and “how can I help?”. You have probably experienced the gift of lagniappe many times in your career (without actually knowing the name for it).

Athletes have experienced lagniappe with coaches that go the extra mile to help in their development. Look around after any little league or high school practice session and watch the coaches that stay hours after practice helping kids develop their skills.

Great leaders provide lagniappe on a daily basis. They do the little things that other leaders don’t do. Coaching, developing, mentoring and sometimes just listening. The handwritten note is an excellent example of lagniappe. The next time something may seem a little trivial, remember it’s the little things that can separate you from the crowd. And that little something extra…that’s called LAGNIAPPE.

A little practice in lagniappe…thanks for taking the time to read this!

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