This past week we had an opportunity to witness someone “ Stepping-Up”. On Monday evening I celebrated with friends as Villanova won the NCAA Basketball Championship.  If you had the opportunity to see the game or view any of the highlights, you probably saw that the camera spent a great deal of time following #10, Donte DiVencenzo.  DiVencenzo is known as the “Sixth Man”; the player who is not a starter, but comes off the bench far more often than other reserves.  This past Monday evening the sixth man came off the bench to score 31 points in Villanova’s win, and was named most outstanding player at the Final Four. His 31 points marked the highest scoring total off the bench in a national title game.  In a nutshell, he stepped-up!  So, what does it mean to “Step-up?”  DiVencenzo would tell you it means being a part of something bigger than yourself.  At Villanova that means living the team motto, “We play for those who came before us.”  So what does it mean for you?  
To me, “Stepping-up” means seizing a leadership opportunity.  This opportunity can be something that has manifested over time or one that presents itself with only a moment’s notice, as was the case with Donte; when called upon he rose to the occasion.  He took the skills he learned and then applied them in a critical situation.  Interestingly, there are those who refer to this type of behavior not as stepping up, but rather as “Sinking to the Level of Our Training”.  Eric Kapitulik in his Linked-in post, Letters on Leadership:  Rising to the Occasion, contends that when adversity strikes we don’t rise to the occasion, we sink to the level of our training.  Kapitulik uses the example of USMC Sgt. Major Bradley Kasal as his example.  Kasal was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism while serving in support of Operation IRAQUI FREEDOM in 2004.  Kapitulik proposes that Kasal’s level of training was so exceptionally high that it enabled him to execute at an elite level in the face of extreme adversity, and this is why training is so important.  He states, “The habits we build in training are 100% the habits we will execute when the bell rings. I agree with this and his contention that those with specialized training fall back to the level of their training, however his perspective fails to consider the actions of those who have no special training yet still take a stand or an action that makes a difference!  
Another perspective is provided in Vince Molinaro’s blog, Gut Check:  Are You Stepping Up As a Thought Leader?  Molinaro believes that, “Thought Leadership,” is a powerful approach that can be utilized by an organization to build its brand, differentiate itself from competitors, and be more effective in attracting new customers.  He states, “When companies invest in thought leadership they also start raising expectations for their leaders.”  He contends that organizations want leaders who can, in a clear, concise manner, share their innovations, best practices and inspiring insights through their own networks.  Five “tips” are shared to help leaders “step up” and share their thoughts:
  • Share Thoughts via Social Media:  Many underestimate the power that a simple “like”, ”share”, “tweet”, “follow” or “comment” can have.
  • Demonstrate Understanding:  Good thought leadership reflects an understanding of the problems, needs, and struggles of others.  These challenges represent an opportunity for a leader to bring creativity and innovation to the table.
  • Develop a Stronger Point of View:  Thought leadership begins with developing and sharing a strong point of view on an important or pressing topic that is important to your colleagues and/or customers.
  • Be Curious and Stay Current:  Thought leaders are readers.  They monitor and explore anything relevant to their topics of interest.
  • Develop and Share:  The ultimate form of thought leadership is sharing your own observations and expertise.
Molinaro concludes by encouraging us to accept the challenge of stepping-up and sharing our ideas and thoughts.
Whether it is repeatedly sinking three pointers, effectively responding as one was trained in a crisis, taking a stand on a social issue, or posting a strong idea or belief on social media, leadership is about “stepping-up”.  This past Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Dr. King stepped-up for what he believed, and what all knew was right and just, but at the time refused to acknowledge.  He paid the ultimate price for his words and actions, but his sacrifice changed the face of a nation. Is it time for you to “Step-up”?
                                                                                                                                 – MLK                                                                                –
Embrace the Challenge!