Years ago, I reached a goal that gave me a great sense of purpose. I was called on to be the line leader in my class. As a D-wired child, that was right up my alley. I was leading the charge and the other children were following. I was thrilled…until the next day when I had to relinquish my duties to someone else.
My short stint in leadership taught me an important lesson. If you are only leading because people have been ordered to follow you, you are not truly leading. You are simply walking in front of people who have no choice but to walk behind you.
The real test of leadership comes when people have the choice of whether or not to follow you, and they choose to do so of their own free will. They not only follow you as a “leader”, they SEE you as one.
Many people want to be leaders. They aspire to leadership roles. But the big questions are these:
What are you leading IN?
My business is called Strength Leader Development. Strength comes first, then Leader. That is key because until you know your strengths – truly know them – you will not be an effective leader. You don’t set out to say, “I am a leader” or “I want to be a leader.” That lasts about as long as you getting to be the line leader in school. When you can finish this sentence, “I am a leader in _____”, you have the full equation.
Leadership is a byproduct of becoming an expert in the area of your strengths. I guarantee if you do what you do to the best of your ability and that one thing helps people, they will look to you as a leader.
What are you leading people TO?
This speaks to responsibility. As the leader, you need to be very careful to lead your people well. We’ve all heard stories of how people were led down dangerous paths by a leader who was not responsible. If you are a leader, always be aware of the direction in which you are leading those who follow you. Follow your principles and always do the right thing. Be honest, considerate, and wise.
What are you leading people FOR?
Back when I was line leader for a day, I led for one reason: I wanted to be the one in charge. Others want to lead for the prestige or the money. But the fact is, leadership is not about US. It is about OTHERS. To lead, we must SERVE. If you lead for any other reason, you stand to be replaced just as quickly as I was that day back in grade school.
Here’s the bottom line.
Find what you do well and give it all you have. The leadership will come. Then…give it all you have some more. Find your gift and serve others. That is leadership…and that is also a very fulfilling life.