I found myself being 1 among many in 1970, when my parents were divorced. My mom and my 3 younger sisters were now on our own; I was the man of the house at an early age by any standards. I was only 10 years old at the time and yet, I learned some valuable life and leadership lessons by observing my mom’s transition from being a stay at home mom to 4 growing children to entering the work force.

My mom showed me what it was to be driven, decisive and determined when it came to finding a job. In those days, it was challenging for a women to get any job let alone a job without a degree. My mom showed me what it took to make a place in the workforce to be 1 among many. My mom had a successful 30 year career.

In 1970 the average yearly income per individual was $6200 and in 2013 the average yearly income per individual had increased to $79,900. When you take into account that women earned 59% of what men earned in 1970, that means that women were earning $3658. per year. In 2013, women earned 78% of their male colleagues which was $35,414. The disparity is striking at first glance.

The rate of inflation from 1970 to 2013 rose 500.40%. That means a $100 in 1970 went on to have the buying power of $600. in 2013. The $3658. that women earned in 1970 had the buying power of $18290. in 2013. While women were earning on average $35414. per year, they still did not have the buying power on par with their male colleagues.

In 1982 I started what would be my 35 corporate career. I worked in a satellite office for a large company, which meant there were only about 100 employees consistently. I started at a time when there were a handful of men in the office as compared to the staggering number of women; my memory tells me that there were less than 5 men out of the total 100 employees. I found myself being 1 among many for the first 4 years of working for that company. There were periods of time during my tenure in that office when I was the only male employee out of the 100 employees.

When I transferred to the regional home office, I saw a dramatic increase in the number of male colleagues. The ratio was still very skewed with more than 80% of the employee population being female. This imbalance would be a present during my 25 years in the health care insurance industry. As a result of it, I learned a lot of valuable lessons that are part of my leadership style today.

I strongly believe that my leadership style was significantly influenced and impacted by the fact that I was raised by my mom along with my 3 sisters and that more than half of my career, was spent working in companies with more female than male employees. I think men tend have more management skills while women tend to have more leadership skills; I am aware that there are exceptions to my theory.

While I could write more about my theory, I prefer to share the 5 side effects of being 1 among many. I have observed these side effects in my own life and the lives of those who I have worked with over my 35 year career. These are the common side effects that I attribute to being 1 among many; it could be in your personal life or your professional life. I had countless experiences that I will summarize before jumping into the side effects.

During the more than 20 trips to China I made to work and to visit friends, I found myself being 1 among many in countless situations. When I was in the markets, I would look around and not find another westerner in the massive crowds. When I was in a restaurant enjoying a meal, I would sometimes be the only non-Chinese patron and when I would take a domestic flight in China, it was more common for me to be the only western passenger on the airplane than not. I experienced being 1 among many in China and several other countries including India, Brazil and Russia.

I have a massive passion for music from all over the world and as such my listening tastes are quite varied. I am a fan of A.R. Rahman of Slum Dog Millionaire fame. I have listened to his music since I as first introduced to it many years ago; so it came as no surprise, when I decided to attend his concert in Houston in 2010. I was 1 among many who were there to enjoy his concert, and in fact the usher asked me directly; “What are you doing here?” I told him that I was a big fan and wanted to experience his concert in person. At the end, the usher told me that it all made sense to him since he enjoyed the music.

The first side effect of being 1 among many is that your comfort zone will be redefined. It will be challenging for you to not see it when you are in it and in some cases, you might even have the courage to put yourself in the very situations that previously frightened you. You will find yourself testing your own limits when it comes to being 1 among many.

Another side effect that you may experience is questioning your own biases. Most of us know all too well, our biases; however, the ones we don’t know about ourselves may come up when we are 1 among many. When we are outside of our comfort zone, we have a tendency to reflect on our surroundings. In this way, we come face to face with our biases.

Some may experience the side effect of expanding their minds. It is possible that when you are in a 1 among man situation, that your reflections will cause you to think new thoughts and have new ideas. Once your mind has been expanded, it is asserted that it can not go back to the previous state of being.

Another side effect is your heart may be opened widely when you find yourself in a 1 among many situation. If you are among those who are suffering or being treated as less than, your human nature may take over and find love and compassion for them. The shift in our minds and hearts causes us to show up in the 1 among many experiences with more sense of being in the present moment.

The last side effect that I will share with you is one of the most important to be aware of as you experience a 1 among many situation. Your compassion will increase, slightly or significantly. Being present with others who look, speak, live, love or think differently from you can cause you to show more compassion and acceptance towards them. The instinctive reaction of fear, when replaced with compassion, can create some amazing opportunities for life experiences which give us some amazing lessons learned.

At a time when sides are more heavily guarded, I think being 1 among many is more important than ever to bring some compassion and acceptance to the situations. Taking sides is a way of resisting being 1 among many. I am too afraid to come out as a gay man, so I guard my orientation rather than stand out. I am too concerned about what others will think about my opinion in a business meeting, so I remain silent and avoid the risk of alienation. I am paralyzed when it comes to standing up for others that don’t look like me, so I don’t make a move to support them.

There are many ways that we can rationalize our thoughts and actions, and in the end we have to live with ourselves and our values. Being 1 among many takes being accepting, bold and confident. These are traits that we all have and when they are demonstrated, they make us human.

I have been more than fortunate to have countless experiences of being 1 among many; which has not only shaped my leadership style, but also my view of the world and those I share it with. I am grateful for all of the experiences and look forward to more in the future.

My passion is clearly for working with people who are ready to experience some or all of the side effects of being 1 among many that are listed in this article. Are you ready to stand out and work with a coach who will support you in achieving the next round of goals for your life and career?

Send me an email at phil@seedandlead.com to schedule your free 45 minutes discovery call. It could be the decision that changes the direction and trajectory of your life and career; coaching has had that positive effect on my life and career more times than I can count.