Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. It’s not because of the fireworks, family time or fun in the sun—of course, all those add to it. The real reason I love the Fourth is what it represents: a little start-up nation breaking away from tradition to build something new and daring—a country based on freedoms and the pursuit of happiness. This world superpower had humble beginnings and only came to be because of a team of leaders that made it happen. Of course, they didn’t do it alone. How they did it is an example of what I call the three lines of leadership. 

When you think of leadership, what’s the first thing that comes to mind—a general giving an inspiring speech in front of his troops before battle, or perhaps Dr. Martin Luther King motivating a million marchers on their path to equality, or maybe it’s a sport’s captain rallying her team to score the winning point to clinch the championship? If you’re like most people, the image you conjure up of leadership is a single person communicating to a group or a team of others to do something that no one person could do alone. And you’d be right—well, at least a third of the way correct. You see in each of those examples they represent one-third of what leadership is—influencing others to come together and do something greater than can be done by one individual. 

There are three lines of leadership, and before you can rally the masses like Martin Luther King or win a country’s independence as Washington did, you’ll need to learn to lead yourself. How you lead others is a direct reflection on your first line—you. And before you lead the masses, you must learn to lead those who work directly WITH you. Here’s what the three lines of leadership look like:

Much like the proverbial pebble in the pond of calm water, leading yourself has a ripple effect to those you work directly and indirectly with. No matter which founding father you’re a fan of—from Hamilton to Franklin—you’ll discover they all had the self-discipline to lead themselves, which led to earning the respect and admiration of others. Those “others” multiplied their efforts to the masses that rallied a budding nation to tackle insurmountable odds to defeat a super-power and change the course of history. 

This Fourth of July, take a moment to reflect on their efforts and then ask yourself what obstacle would you tackle that would change the course of your life. Whatever your dream is, remember it will always start with leading yourself.

Happy Fourth of July, and God Bless our troops!

Alden