Leadership Throughout Our Lives with Brittany Do
Leadership is one of those buzzwords that we hear so often its true meaning has become conflated. Leadership seems like a position meant for a singular person or a skill that must be learned through several resume-fit experiences. But how do we know we become good leaders, and what exactly does that entail? I sat down with Brittany Do, the author of “Bigger Than Leadership”, to discuss the findings of her research and over 80 interviews with leadership experts. Brittany is a student at the Foster School of Business studying finance and accounting, and came across an opportunity to publish her own book while searching for a summer internship. Keep reading to hear more about Brittany’s own story and the findings from her book!
PH: What made you want to write on the topic of leadership?
BD: Originally, my topic was going to be about leadership and youth, but as I continued interviewing people who are a little more established in their careers, even retirees, I realized that I didn’t want to limit it to people who are young. Leadership is an ageless topic that you can continue learning about no matter how old you are, and no matter how many experiences you’ve had. That’s why I wanted to talk about leadership originally because I feel like a lot of leadership experiences I’ve had in the past have impacted who I am today and that just continues to build.
PH: What were some major findings from the book?
BD: One thing is the definition of leadership. In the book, I talk about the 3 I’s: influence, intention, and inspiration. Everyone has some sort of influence or impact in their community, whether that is with family, friends, or even strangers. Because of this, you must also be intentional about what your actions and words are. Lastly, inspiring others, whether or not you know that you are, basically means that you are a leader.
A lot of people don’t know how many people they impact on a daily basis. I want to share a story that really resonated with me. One of my interviewees was planning on doing a triathlon, but she didn’t know how to swim and would have to learn. One day during her training, she noticed another woman wearing an orange safety vest and sunglasses and another person who had a vest on that said guide. They struck up a conversation, and she found out that they were going to compete in the same triathlon- except the other woman was blind. Although she was blind, it was her dream to complete a triathlon and she didn't want her disability to stop her. At that moment, my interviewee was supremely inspired and thought to herself, “If she can do the running, biking, and swimming without being able to see, then I can learn how to swim well enough to complete this triathlon” because it had been a hard journey learning how to swim and getting over her fear of open water. Sometime later, one of her friends ended up taking a photo of the woman she met crossing the finish line. Now, she has a framed picture of a complete stranger in her living room, and she is constantly inspired by her. The stranger still doesn't know how much of an impact she had on my interviewee, and she probably will never find out. This doesn't make her impact any less, though.
Going off of this, many people don’t know how much of a leader they are- they’re always so much more than they think. That’s why the title of my book is called “Bigger than Leadership” because all of this- I’m talking about the intersection of life and leadership. Life is bigger than leadership, impact is bigger than leadership, influence, intention, and inspiration are all bigger than leadership. It’s just that inherent part of life. That’s why it’s important to be a leader no matter where you are or who is watching.
PH: Do you have an example of how leadership intersects with our daily lives?
BD: Something that I think we can all do is to be more intentional day to day. It can be as simple as reaching out to people and checking in on them (even if it’s been a few months since the last time you talked). I think this can mean a lot more to people than you’d think, and I do believe that the majority of people would appreciate it!
Just making that small but positive difference in other people’s lives is meaningful and valuable, and although I don’t think it’d fall under conventional leadership, it’s leadership nonetheless.
PH: Do you have any words of advice for others who are thinking of embarking on the same journey?
BD: First, just start. Literally, just channel your inner Nike- just do it! I feel like there’s a lot of things that we all want to do, but it’s just a matter of making time for it. Even if you have like half an hour between classes, set a timer on your phone for 30 minutes and crunch it out. The hardest part is just starting, and once you get over that and realize that it may be a lot easier than you thought it would be, it motivates you and energizes you. You think, “Okay I can do this, and it’s not as bad as I thought it would be”.
Secondly, reach out to people for honestly anything, even if you’re not interested in writing a book. If there’s someone who has a career you're interested in, reach out to them. If you enjoyed the conversation, then at the end, ask if there is anyone else you should talk to about this topic. It can lead you to so many more conversations in the future.
If you are curious to learn more, Brittany’s book “Bigger Than Leadership” is available for pre-order until December 20th.
Creator Institute, the organization that she is publishing with, is run by Eric Koester, a professor at Georgetown University who formerly taught entrepreneurship. During his last semester at Georgetown, he made it mandatory for all of his students to write a book during the duration of the class. To his surprise, it was a large success, and he now manages Creator Institute to help individuals discover their passions.
With the end of the year coming and a boatload of anticipated free time heading our way, it is essential to keep in mind some healthy mental practices that can keep you clear-headed and happy this holiday season. One of them, personal development, can take many forms. For your New Year resolutions, take a moment to consider your own definition of leadership, and how important it is in your life. How do you want to inspire others? How do you inspire yourself? And is there anything that you really want to do, but just haven't started yet?