Leadership is a popular topic. The role of a leader is one that many aspire to. Books and articles tell us that we need to be helping our children, our employees, and others around us to become leaders.
But what is a leader and why do we follow them? For following is a key element of a leader's definition.
You are not a leader,
if no one is following you.
If only there was a key we could press to make a great leader and cause others to choose to follow. Unfortuantely, there is no one answer or simple magic key to press. Most would agree that the road to leadership is a journey. You are not born a leader, you BECOME one.
Belong... to a community
Leaders do not stand alone on top of the mountain looking down upon their followers. They are part of their communities. We follow them because, by listening to what they say and watching what they do, they take us to a better place. They lead the way for us and we follow their footsteps.
Engender ... Trust
When words and actions are authentic, congruent, and consistent, we feel secure in their leadership and in our following. We know what we can expect from them and as followers we trust them to lead us in the right direction. When our leaders get lost or confused, which often happens, leaders are human after all, some followers will drop away, while others will rally around to help a trusted leader get back on track.
Cause ... things to happen
Leaders act as catalysts, as agents that provoke or speed significant change or action within their communities, their businesses, or whatever their sphere of influence may be. They do not act alone, but bring things about in concert with others. They inspire others to think, to act, to do, to change.
Open.... up to new opportunities
Leaders are innovators. They find new ways of doing things that make life better for their followers and for those around them. Leaders understand that the most traveled path may not always be the best one. They take the time to explore the options - old and new - to find the best way to travel towards their chosen destination.
Mentor... develop, and support
Leadership may be immune to the passage of time, but leaders are not. Leaders come and leaders go. That is why true leaders develop future leaders. They know that being the sole leader in any group is a lonely job - but when you lead in the company of leaders, the journey get's shorter, and the road you travel less difficult. And most important of all, that when your time as a leader is through, there are others ready and able to continue the journey.
Excel... at putting the needs of others before their own
Leaders excel in putting the needs of the whole before their own. It seems at times this gets forgotten. And these are the times when we see leaders get into trouble. We've seen it in politicians, in the kings of industry, with sports heroes, and in the Mom at the PTA. When the person in front stops caring for the people behind them - sooner or later - those people will be gone. And without followers, you are a leader no more.
True leaders rarely have to shout. Some of the most powerful words are spoken softly.
They issues orders - when they have to - and sometimes they do. But more often than not, direction is provided through stories and shared experiences. They lead the way through instruction, by demonstration, and sometimes by the simple act of taking another by the hand.
The words of leaders may be written...
so we can share them with others long after the leader is gone. Take a look at the list of the best selling books of all time. According to Wikipedia, the list of best-selling books includes in it's top rankings the books on spiritual leaders: The Bible, Qur'an (The Koran), Book of Mormon, and The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. They are joined by the writings of a political leader - agree with him or not - Chairman Mao knew how to leverage the printing press with his Little Red Book, a manual for raising young leaders, Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship, and fictional journeys of life and leadership including A Tale of Two Cities, The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit. Shakespeare of course wrote stories of leaders and leadership too. But since his were plays, not books originally, they did not make this particular list. But it is not just the beauty of his words that made him immortal, it was the stories of leaders, of emperors, princes, and kings - be they mortal or fairy - that have stood the test of time.
The world is looking for leaders
From the beginning of human time until its end, there will always be a place in this world for leaders. We need them in our homes, in our businesses, and in our communities. We need them to get things started, to help us along the way, to instruct, to inspire, and at times to console.
Yes, the world is looking for leaders.
Are you ready to make the effort - every day - to BECOME one?
Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned...