The man in the picture above is the “Mayor of the Infield” and a mainstay at the Kentucky Derby. He wasn’t elected, no one appointed him and he wasn’t given his position…he took it.
For those who haven’t been before, the Kentucky Derby is quite an event. The thoroughbred horses, Millionaire’s Row, the celebrities, the mint juleps, the women in their fancy dresses and gigantic hats dominate the coverage. Meanwhile, one of the largest parties in America quietly builds momentum inside of the mile long oval. Crowds begin to gather before sunrise and the party lasts into the evening (rain or shine, sunburn or mudslides).
It’s a chaotic situation and yet, within all of that, there are shining examples of icons like the “Mayor” who step into leadership roles throughout the day. Like the Kentucky Derby infield, the professional environment is chaotic. You can fight to be promoted into the role of a “Manager” or “Vice President,” however, that is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from becoming a leader. No one can grant you leadership…you have to take it.
The Mayor of the Infield is a quirky guy, maybe even a little bit crazy…but I watched him as he took a leadership role last Saturday:
Stand Out – leaders are remarkable, they naturally attract others
It was 7am, new security regulations had outlawed coolers, tents/umbrellas were no longer allowed inside of the gates and we all knew rain was in the forecast for the entire day. None of that was going to ruin the Mayor’s infield experience. The excitement and anticipation around him and his friends was palpable. He was like-able in a really strange way, dressed for the occasion and he set the tone for the day as we waited in line.
Serve – leaders lend a helping hand, they give to others prior to getting for themselves
As we sat there waiting for the gates to open another derby veteran to my right crushed his final beer can in the 6 pack he had brought with him. Almost instinctively the Mayor dug into his stash, handing a fresh can of beer to the man…someone who wasn’t in his immediate circle. Handing over a beer is a small gesture, but the value he placed in the collective enjoyment of the group over his own personal satisfaction is a big deal.
Act – leaders lead by example, they don’t wait for initiative…they take it.
The gates open and the Mayor quickly cleared security (he had made good friends with the Army personnel working the turnstile and they graciously pre-screened his outfit). As I watched from my spot in the line I saw him throw a fist in the air and let out an enthusiastic battle cry as he headed into the tunnel. He quickly transitioned from the crawl of the security line into a flat out sprint to stake out his spot along the fence line. He ran out of sight with a number of other infielders following him….just as loud and excited as he was.
Leadership is NOT a title, it is NOT limited to those in a certain role, NO ONE is going to grant it to you. The world will always be in need of good leadership…it’s just waiting for you to take it.
Stand Out – Serve – Act