Leadership – Born, Learned, Forced?
Leadership is going to be a hot topic whenever it is an election year. It seems that this year is not different. The battle for President of the United States continues, though the primaries are winding down. It is times like this that we must stop and ask ourselves, what is it that makes someone a good leader? What qualifies someone as being capable to lead? Is leadership a trait that some people are born with or is it something that is developed over time? These are just some of the starting points that a person can take when looking into the question of leadership.
Where does a Leader come from?
If you were to look at the mission statement of many schools and universities you would see that leadership is one of the attributes they want to teach to their students (here is my Alma Matter’s Mission Statement). This is the mentality that everyone is a leader, or everyone is capable of leadership, or everyone should be able to lead those around them. Take away the fundamental flaw that if every single person was a leader they would have no followers, and it is not that bad of a concept. The qualities that make up a strong leader are things that give a person a solid character. Leaders get things done, and they get other people to get things done.
But where do leaders get their leadership from? First, I would say there are indeed natural-born leaders. These people possess a quality that was given to them at birth. They see themselves as leaders, and other people affirm their self-evaluation. Second, I would say that there are those who learn to be leaders. For some reason or another these people came to the conclusion that they needed to have greater leadership characteristics. Maybe their ultimate aspirations lead them down the road of acquiring leadership skills. They used their outside desires to shape themselves into better leaders. Someone like this would be a person who wants to own their own business, but needed to learn how to also be a manager and a vision caster.
The final place that I will mention that leaders come from is out of necessity. I call these people reluctant leaders. They would rather be followers. They would rather the burden of leadership be upon someone else shoulders. Ultimately, they had no real burning desire to be leaders. Instead, they were chosen to be leaders. Whether they were chosen by God or society, they were made a leader by outside forces. These “reluctant leaders” might actually possess great leadership qualities (after all, why else would they be chosen?), or they might not. They might have just chosen to step up to fill the role that needed to be filled.
This final category is actually more where I would place myself. Most of my life I never thought about being a leader. However, when I look back to various areas of my life, I can see that I was more often the leader than the follower. I believe that this is partially because I was more stubborn than my friends and peers, but either way, it seemed that I was often the leader in a group without making any conscious decision to do so.
What makes a Leader?
Well I already mentioned stubbornness. There may be a better way to put that. Let’s try the word dedicated. Leaders know what is best for everyone (or at least they think that they do). Leadership means having the foresight to see where an organization or group needs to be. They are dedicated enough to this vision that they are able to stick to it regardless of outside forces. They are not easily swayed because they have a knowledge that they know best.
Leaders are sympathetic (or at least make people think they are). The best way to get people to follow you is to play at their emotions. Leadership requires other people to follow you. Even if you are the blind leading the blind, there has to be other blind people around. One of the things that leaders do really well is to get people to believe that they are sympathetic to their cause. If you know a leader is on your side, or has your best interests at heart, you are that much more likely to follow them. Think about it, we vote for people because we think that they are going to accomplish our desires.
Leaders are honest. While there are plenty of times that leaders also need to be crafty, witty, and perhaps even tricky, they need to be honest. Nothing crumbles a leader’s reign like dishonesty. This is because no one is going to follow or listen to someone who has lied to them. There is a difference between failure and dishonestly. Leaders are allowed to fail. They can make promises and not fulfill those promises only if they have actually made an attempt to complete them. If a leader says they are going to do something and then never puts forth an effort to do it, then they are a liar. They were being sympathetic to a cause in order to gain popularity, but the lies will turn on them ten-fold. Leadership requires being committed to the things that you say you are committed to.
What Leadership is Not
Leadership is not power. Power is what leads to dictatorships. Power means forcing people to submit to your will. Leaders have willing followers, not slaves.
Leadership is not manipulation. Manipulation only gets people on your side for as long as you can continue to manipulate them. Eventually people will see the light and manipulators will fail.
Leadership is not being a boss and telling people what to do. Telling people what to do is simply a person getting someone to do something that they themselves would not do. A boss has the ability to fire someone for not doing a job. A leader assigns people to tasks that they would do themselves if they had the time.
There are a lot more things that make a person a good leader. However, I hope that this gives a little bit of thought to what leadership is and how a person comes by it. Every leader is going to be a little bit different. Personality tests and IQ tests are not always good indicators as to whether or not someone will make a good leader. While some are born with leadership capabilities, others have learned how to become leaders (or at least learn how to become better ones), and still others are almost forced into leadership and were only able to succeed because they were called to fill the need.
What do you think? Where do leaders come from? What makes a good leader? What makes a bad one? Leave some comments below!