“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan
We all have ideas about what leadership means and what we would like leaders to be. Sometimes our ideas of what a leader is are idealistic and may not have anything to do with what true leadership is. We often have high expectations of those we call leaders, confusing individual appointments ( positions of authority) with leadership. In reality, leadership does not automatically accompany a position, but it is an attitude, a decision, and a way of life. Leadership can not be elected or appointed.
People like to complain that our governments, schools or whatever body of authority we are talking about is “lacking in leadership” and that this is the reason for our problems. However, the assumption is that those in authority are leaders simply by virtue of the fact that they are in positions of authority. We trust them to make wise decisions and to run various bodies of government or business based on appointment, election or promotion.
Leaders are not chosen; they become. Leaders are not elected, promoted or appointed; they develop through adversity, conviction, and vision. They do not operate from a position of authority, but rather a position of service. A leader remains a leader only as long as he is leading or influencing. When no one is following the leader, he is just going for a walk.
It is true that our nations, our governing bodies at all levels and businesses need leadership; we desperately need it. But we need people willing to lead wherever they are, in whatever community they are in and in whatever capacity they are in. Leadership is for everyone, not a select few. Let,s look at some of the characteristics of strong leaders.
Leaders do not lead from a top-down perspective, but rather from a ground-up. They see themselves as wanting to help others around them. True leaders are concerned more for the welfare of others than for their own gain. They are willing to go the extra mile at their ur expense (in time and energy) in order to serve those they are leading. In fact, their leadership comes out of service.
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Leaders walk In Front and In Back
The leader does not always know where he or she is heading; sometimes it is into uncharted waters. But he or she is willing to go first and experience the adversity, the inconveniences, and the failures before the others. A leader leads from in front and by example. It does not so much matter where he or she is headed, but that he or she is willing to go first.
A leader also leads from behind, not willing to leave anyone in the team to struggle on their own. So, if the leader sees that there are problems down the line, he or she is willing to go to the source and deal with it. Sometimes it may mean going back to the very beginning and moving forward from there. The leader follows the cry from The Three Muskateers: “All for One and One for All”
Leaders Take the Blame and Give the Credit
Leaders are willing to assume responsibility for any failures within the team they are leading rather than cast the blame on to individuals. As leaders, they feel responsible for the success or failure of whatever endeavor they are involved in and will shoulder the blame.
On the other hand, leaders are generous with praise and quick to give credit out to others for any successes. They recognize that encouraging others and giving them credit for their contribution is an act of honesty and humility that is beneficial for everyone.
Unfortunately, what we see in governments and businesses alike is the exact opposite – casting the blame onto others and taking credit that is not due. True leaders can turn this tide around by setting the example.
“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”
-Theodore M. Hesburgh
Leaders Have Mentors
Strong leaders have mentors. They learn from those who have gone before them in blazing trails. Mentors pass on wisdom and knowledge that is useful and often crucial to leaders kin helping them not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Mentors do not always come in the form of a person; sometimes they can come through literature. A library is a collection of many mentors located in one place.
The important point is that leaders are not an island; they are connected to others who can counsel them, show them the right paths to follow and teach them what to avoid. Their experience is golden. Any leader or person who claims to be one who does not have mentorship is not a leader.
Leaders sacrifice personal time, safety, energy as well as personal interests, needs, and even their own reputation for the sake of others. Leadership means sacrifice- putting others before ourselves. This does not mean they depreciate themselves or refuse to take care of themselves, however. It simply means that they are very concerned with the long term welfare of those they are leading, be it a family, a community or a nation.
Sacrifice means letting go of what we want to do at any given moment, letting go of our personal opinions, and taking a larger, long term perspective. It means asking the question: What is important now”?, rather than: “What do I want to do now”? Sacrifice involves looking beyond and outside of ourselves to consider the greater purpose.
Without an authentic connection, a leader cannot lead because no one will be following. It is that simple. People don’t care so much about what you want them to know or do unless they first know how much you care about them. They want to know what is in it (whatever the endeavor is) for them and how they can benefit and they want to know that a leader cares about their needs and interests.
The very first responsibility of any leader is to establish a connection with those he or she seeks to influence. They need to get to know and care about people, their names, their, occupations and interests, their families, their cares, their hopes, and their fears. Nothing in leadership is more important than connecting with others – without it, there is no leadership.
A Note For Those In Positions of Leadership
Influence and change can not happen unless there is first an understanding of what true leadership is. The people you are in charge of or directing need to know that you know where you are going and that you are not afraid to go first. They need to know that you will be generous in giving credit where it is due, in recognizing contribution and progress and also that you hold yourself and everyone accountable to high standards. They want to know that you are constantly learning, willing to change when necessary and that you are open to new information. They want to know that you care about them and are willing to go the extra mile for them and with them if necessary. If they see you as the leader, they will gladly follow.
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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, traveling, learning, and pursuing a debt-free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life. You can connect with her through Livingandstuff.ca