A couple of months ago, a student came to my office, sat down and asked me a question: “I would like to be a leader…what do I need to do to be a leader?” In my usual way I asked a question back rather than answer direct (those who know me understand that you never get a direct answer ) I asked the student what he thought made me a leader. His reply was that I had integrity, compassion and being authentic. I had to tell him that those are appreciated qualities but those aspects don’t me a leader. There is only one thing that makes me a leader. He looked at me as if I just posed a complicated life problem. He wondered for a moment and then advised that the words he had used were the only things that came to him. I told him that I can be whoever and possess those traits that he mentioned but those do not make me a leader. What makes me a leader are…(ready for it!) FOLLOWERS! Followers are those who will walk along a path with you because they have faith in you and believe in your focus and journey. The students response was classic: “Well, how do I get followers?”
A good friend of mine, Drew Dudley did a TEDx talk in Ontario and I appreciated what he said. He talks about leadership and said that we have made leadership a word that is elevated and that might not be attainable by the masses under the perception many hold. I agree with what he said because we all have personal capacities and abilities that make us leaders but we sometimes feel that the term leadership is reserved for those few people that are under a dictionary definition. I encourage you to see Drew’s talk to get a different perspective and one I agree with. Who said you are not a leader? Call yourself a leader and go forward. http://www.ted.com/talks/drew_dudley_everyday_leadership.html
I also think that there is a great talk about leadership and the importance of followership. This TED talk is one of my favorites and it is “Dance of the Shirtless Guy” or “How to start a movement” It is not about being the shirtless dancing guy but rather support this person and embrace the leader acting like a nut because as a follower, the momentum starts to shift to a movement and those not joining in are going to stand out as not supporting. http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_how_to_start_a_movement.html
When I was writing my masters dissertation, the start captures the essence of what I am talking about… There are three positions in society that one can take: to be a leader who is a catalyst for change and is the initiator, a follower who is part of change and embraces the change, or someone who watches and does not support or realize that change is happening. We should strive to be in the first category or at least in the second…but not in the third. Leadership is a word that is for you. We all have done things that had people follow us. We should not think of leadership as a glorified place to be but rather something that we can all embrace. Make leadership yours and you define what it is for you. Pick words that become you and live those words to the best of your abilities…the followers will come.
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