Why you should be a leader.
Everyone, regardless of his personal or business status, has an influence in other people's lives. How great your influence will be is entirely up to you.
I want to encourage you to think about that responsibility. A decision you make--or do not make--today could mean the difference in the direction of your life and the lives of a lot of other people. You can decide to stand back and let relationships go as they will--or you can decide to be a leader.
Leadership is one of the most misunderstood concepts in our society. I've found that most people believe that leaders are born, not made. Nothing could be further from the truth. Much of the reason for confusion is that, in our modern-day society, we've come to equate leadership with management--another, and totally different, concept.
Management is a science and can be taught right out of a textbook. Leadership is an art. It can be learned and developed, but only through action--in other words, the hard way.
The most vivid example of the difference between managers and leaders came from a gutsy U.S. naval officer interviewed recently on the "60 Minutes" TV show. "Managers manage things," she asserted, "leaders lead people." That, in a nutshell, is what is so important about the concept of leadership--people.
People need leaders today more than ever before--when there seem to be fewer and fewer leaders around. There's a real storage of people to admire, to be inspired by and to emulate.
Now you're probably asking, "Me? I'm not a business tycoon. I don't have any opportunity to be a leader." But you're wrong. You don't have to hold a high position to be an effective leader.
Maybe you're not even involved in business. There's a vast world beyond the business community that includes a very large group of people. You may be involved in your neighborhood or community, you may coach a little-league team, be a PTA leader or a scoutmaster, teach Sunday School or lead a civic group.
One of the most obvious, and the most overlooked, examples of how you can provide critically needed leadership is in the home. Many parents today employ a surprising "hands off" policy with their children. In an attempt to be "modern" parents, they almost seem to be by-standers in their children's lives. It's so easy to be passive and take the path of least resistance. But parents who forgo the opportunity to help children learn lifelong values and attitudes also lose a rich opportunity to lead.
Leaders are, above all, examples, and maybe people just don't see themselves as potential examples for others.
That's where we make two basic mistakes. We tend to think that, to be leaders, we must also be saints. And we think we must dedicate ourselves to a task involving thousands of people. In truth, leaders are desperately needed in every walk of life, at every level of society--in every individual household. And the qualities that make a leader aren't charisma or power or wealth or genius. The most important qualities I've observed in the leaders I've observed in the leaders I've known personally or admired from afar were caring, concern, courage, determination, commitment--and love. If you've got those qualities, you're leadership material, and somebody you know needs you.
Nobody ever said being a leader was easy. But there are a few common denominators I've observed in all the leaders I've known or studied. Look them over and see if you're willing to face the challenge of leadership.
The ability to dream. A leader isn't content to be one of the crowd. But that doesn't mean you can't be an ordinary person in an ordinary town. I'm taking about what's in the heart. Leaders have the ability to dream big dreams--to have high expectations--both for themselves and for others, as well as the ability to instill those feelings in others. Again, this activity doesn't have to take place in the business world. I can't imagine anything more worthwhile than teaching your own children discipline, self-reliance and an expectation of success.
A positive attitude. No one will follow a disappointed, frustrated crybaby. Because people who decide to be leaders have goals and set priorities, they can't afford to waste time worrying uselessly. They never get bogged down by the petty difficulties of life.
Concern for the success and accomplishments of others. The most important thing leaders do is to lead others. They are interested in more than their own success. A leader's goal is bringing out the best in others.
Be an example. Before you can expect anyone to do something, you must first be prepared to do it yourself. You must be the example to follow. Before you ask for commitment, you must be more committed than anyone else. Before you ask for hard work, you must set the example by working harder than anyone else. You must persuade through your example and conviction and see it through. This is critical. You must make it clear you're committed to the role you've taken; that you're in it for the distance. Commitment to lead is the difference between sprinting and running a marathon. You must be prepared to expend energy for a period of years, not days or months.
The most important thing to remember is that no one is born a leader--leadership is something you must commit yourself to.
If you've made it this far with me, you have a little inkling down inside that you are leadership material. If you're floundering a little bit in your life, if it's not as meaningful as you think it could be, if you're bored or feel as though something's missing--maybe you aren't challenging yourself. Maybe you're too absorbed in your problems, and you haven't devoted yourself to someone or something in a long time.
Maybe it's time you accepted a challenge--in your business life, in your community, in your own home. Think about it. Maybe it's time you reached for something outside yourself and reached down for something inside your own heart, for the potential that you haven't even acknowledged exists.
Maybe you ought to be a leader.
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|Title Annotation:||committing yourself to leadership|
|Publication:||Saturday Evening Post|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1984|
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