August 24, 2017

An excellent leader is defined by the moments they lead when no one is watching. A strong leader uses every single day as an opportunity to make the world a better place. I do not believe that leadership is defined in one sweeping moment but is defined in a series of smaller, impactful interactions.

So, you might be asking how on earth this seems like less of a feat than one moment. You’re right, it’s harder to be a leader all the time, but since when is being a good leader ever easy? So, here it goes, my big secret—the way I change the world every day is through my smile. Yes, by opening my mouth and showing my teeth in a curve at every person I see is how I am a leader every single day. It may not seem like a big deal, but the impact it has on others is extreme. Think about it. Every time you smile at someone, that is a positive interaction. Now that person is more likely to have a positive interaction with the next person they talk to and that person to others and so on. It’s a chain reaction of positivity coursing through the environment you are in. This is both good for you and for the people around you. I firmly believe the more positivity you put out in the world, the more likely it is to come back to you. You also get the satisfaction of knowing you made at least one person happy, even if for a moment.

Next, I want to address why I smile at every person I see. It started as a way to seem less intimidating, then evolved into my leadership philosophy. Flash back to the fifth grade, I was the tallest, loudest person in my class who beat every boy in arm wrestling and who began to develop earlier than every girl in my grade. Most girls did not like me because I looked different and the boys were intimidated by me because I was taller and stronger than most of them. I found myself the object of bullying and ridicule. One girl actually stabbed me in the leg with a lead pencil so deep my dad had to tweeze out. After he finished digging, I cried about my situation. He comforted me with words that have stuck with me to this day, “Kill ’em with kindness.” Thus began my quest to better the world.

I made it my mission to smile at everyone I saw and perform deliberate acts of kindness for strangers. Soon, I formed more relationships than I knew what to do with. Fast forward to today, I have had so many people tell me how I was their one joyful moment in an otherwise miserable day. I had one good friend whose grandparent and dog passed away in the same week. I had no idea at the time that they were grieving and did not recall that day; however, it changed them. They still remembered it years later. I was so touched that she decided to tell me what my smile meant to her in that moment and it still motivates me to continue my mission.

You may wonder what’s the moral of my story. It’s easy. You can change the world. I have changed the world.

Leadership moments are possible every moment of every day.

I will continue to smile because one act of kindness reaches more than just one person. I may not know the impact I am making immediately, but the effort applied is the most important thing. I want to inspire all who read this to not be discouraged if you feel like an epic leadership moment has not yet come to you. Start small. Drops of water make an entire ocean. Never underestimate what one act of kindness can do. That is how you change the world—one person, one smile at a time.

About Shaeleigh Jacobs
Shaeleigh is currently a junior at Austin Peay State University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Philosophy. In addition to her academic pursuits, Miss Jacobs serves as Vice President of Judicial Affairs for the College Panhellenic Council as well as being an active member of the Sigma Kappa Chapter of Chi Omega. Shaeleigh is originally from Morristown, Tennessee. In her spare time, she is committed to serving the community, her church, and traveling the country.