Leadership today doesn’t look like previous generations—there has been a shift in priorities. The formula in the past for high-achievers and leaders in business or communities was to do, do, do—and do some more! The focus was on “success” as defined in a rather 2-dimensional way. These are the type of leaders I believe Mother Teresa was referring to when she encouraged: “Do not wait for leaders…”
Now I am aware of more and more leaders who are driven to make a difference for others, from small-scale to worldwide.
Entire books have been written about how “mid-life” is often accompanied by a strong desire to move from success to significance.
This could mean a career change, opening a small business, or committing to being in a wonderful relationship vs. settling for one that’s stark and unfulfilling.
Becoming a mentor, taking on a short-term mission project or other volunteer work become attractive options instead of far-off thoughts. One starts having an itch to make a difference, to feel that every day is in some way meaningful.
And we all know someone who has lived with this intention for a long time, much sooner in life than 40 or 50 years old. Maybe they tell you they have “a calling.”
You absolutely can begin acting as a leader who profoundly affects others, no matter what your stage of life. You don’t need to wait and experience a “mid-life crisis” because you suddenly become aware of this distinction—success vs. significance. Nor should you look back from the other side and regretfully wish you had started living with an intention to make a meaningful difference years earlier. It is definitely never too late. (Many of my first-time authors are in their 70s, 80s, and yes, 90s!)
Writing a book is only ONE way to feel that you are engaging in a meaningful project, that you have a purpose to your day and that you are developing an excellent vehicle for reaching many, many more people than you typically could touch with your story, humor, inspiration, or hard-won wisdom.
The number one thing you can do right now to fortify your intention to make a difference is to discover and reflect on your own gifts. Get clear and develop these and you will become more and more aware of how you affect and influence others in a positive way. It’s much more fun than chasing success; however, leaders who make a big difference for others receive big rewards in life, usually including financial freedom.