“When the work’s done right, with no fuss or boasting, ordinary people say, ‘Oh, we did it.’”—Lao-Tzu, philosopher and teacher, sixth century B.C.

For me, this quote from Lao-Tzu very simply captures the essence of leadership—trusting and empowering others and working quietly to help them be their best.

True leaders are quite often not the people we read and hear about in the media. They are the individuals who are quietly making a difference in their communities, their families and in their businesses. They are focused on outcome, not recognition. They take satisfaction in knowing that they have made a difference.

Many of us are conditioned to think that leadership and success are tied to high-profile, big-income careers. Maybe, maybe not. I believe that each of us must determine our own definition of success and know that we have the power to create our personal success. Never let someone else set your personal agenda.

When mentoring young professionals today, I have the same three pieces of advice for everyone. First, take the time to truly think about and articulate to ourself what success means to you. Is that a fast-track career? A blend of career and family? An advocate for social change? Only you know the answer, but you
must be clear on the answer before you can be successful.

Secondly, once you know what you want, don’t wait for breaks. Create your own opportunities. In the business world this may mean moving beyond publicized job openings within your organization and finding a critical business need that isn’t currently being addressed. If you can envision a solution for that need, you have a good chance of owning it. Congratulations, you’ve just created your own opportunity!

Finally, understand that leadership and success are most often not accomplished single-handedly. Honor and respect those who have contributed to your success. You will shine through them.