According to www.dictionary.com, the origin of the word “impact” comes from the Latin word impingere, which means “to push against.” The online dictionary has three definitions of impact that relate directly to the concept of leadership impact:
1) “influence; effect,” 2) “the force exerted by a new idea, concept, technology, or ideology,” and 3) “the power of making a strong, immediate impression.”
Whether you see yourself as a leader or not, you are having an impact on the world. Each breath and every movement, word, interaction, and thought have an impact on something or someone else. It’s the classic stimulus-response theory: for every stimulus there is a response, or for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. “Impact” is just a less clinical way of saying “stimulus-response.”
Impact falls on a continuum (see The Impact Continuum below). Sometimes impact is seemingly small, goes unnoticed, or is difficult to measure – such as the swaying of a wheat field caused by a gentle breeze, the blooming of a rose, the daily consistency of an employee committed to getting her work done, throwing a used cigarette butt on the ground, holding your child’s hand while walking down the street, or touching another person on the shoulder.
Sometimes the impact is extreme, such as the effect of an earthquake, a family argument, a car collision, one country’s declaration of war on another, or the laying off of a company’s employees.
The Impact Continuum
Unnoticeable Barely Noticeable Very Noticeable Extremely Noticeable
As an example of impact, everything that an individual, partnership, family, business, corporation, organization, community, city, or country does has an impact on others – large or small, noticeable or unnoticeable, measurable or immeasurable. Just look at how society has changed since you were born, and the impact of advances in technology, science, and research.
Regardless of your leadership role or your situation in life, you have a responsibility to notice your impact. This is the leadership role that every human being is called to accept. The next time you do anything – have a conversation, work on a project, make a decision, walk down the street, eat a meal, take a breath – notice your impact on the world around you. Notice your influence or effect; notice the force of your ideas; and notice the impression you leave on others. That is, notice your leadership impact.