Everyone can be a leader. From the boardroom to the backyard, leadership is in your reach. Regardless of whether or not you have a formal leadership role, you can take action and set conditions for those around you to be successful.

Here is how: 1) recognize the leadership opportunities available to you each day, 2) use your ability to influence and take action, and 3) find the tools and tips needed to lead even when the situation is complex.

Opportunities to lead are everywhere

There are myriad of leadership opportunities in everyday life. For example, taking action in your community to improve neighborhoods by picking up litter, cleaning public parks, or organizing community watch programs. You can take action by helping a stranger cross the street, leading a local bicycle awareness ride, or encouraging a friend to try something new. In each of these opportunities to lead, your actions have the potential to change, improve, or inspire others to be the change they want to see.

There are also many opportunities to lead in the workplace. For example, even without a formal leadership role you may choose to go the extra mile to keep a project on track or rally others to get their tasks done. You might start a trend of smiles in the elevator, or organize guest speakers to join your team for lunch and learn sessions. Such actions have ripple effects that you may, or may not, ever see. Whatever the focus, opportunities to lead are everywhere.

Everyone has the potential to be a leader when they use their ability to influence and take action

In general, leaders tap into their influence because they see themselves as an active agent in the situation. Being an active agent means, you read a situation, decide what is important, and you take action. By virtue of taking action, you can influence others around you to do so too.

Central to the role of any leader is “taking action.” HSD offers three simple questions to help leaders do this: 1) What?, 2) So what?, 3) Now what?. This is the Adaptive Action cycle.

“Using Adaptive Action, leaders ask three questions. “What?” helps you name patterns of interaction and decision-making that shape success. “So what?” helps you make sense of those patterns. “Now what?” helps you inform action to influence yourself and your team toward greater fit, success, and sustainability.” (Adaptive Action)

Finding the tips and tools to helps leaders lead in complex situations

When I am coaching formal or informal leaders through conflict management or change initiatives, we often talk about an important nuance to using one’s influence and taking action. That is, how to take action when the situation is volatile, uncertain, complex, and/or ambiguous (VUCA). It is in these situations where we can all get stuck, and end up missing an opportunity to lead and influence.

In these complex situations the stakes are high and there is no room for error. If there is one tip I can’t stress enough, it is to use iterative Adaptive Action cycles to select your next wise actions. VUCA situations, like driving in heavy fog, require many careful advances. Advance slowly and actively with your “What?”, “So what?,” and “Now what?” questions, being sure to take an action each time (no matter how small) to keep your influence in motion. With each action you will receive feedback. Pay attention to this feedback, it is essential information. Use this feedback in your next cycle of “What?,” “So what?,” and “Now what?” questions to gain new opportunities for insight and action.