So You Want To Be A Leader

So you say you want to be a leader? Most people who utter those lofty words do not really understand the full weight of that role, nor do they really want that level of responsibility. What in the world does the term “leadership” mean anyway? Well, that is the sixty-four thousand dollar question.

The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.

Thousands of books have been written about “leadership”. There are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept. Maybe the real problem is that there are more definitions and theories of the concept than there are leaders themselves. George S. Patton Jr. maintains that a leader is one “…willing to make decisions. That is the most important quality of a good leader. Napoleon Bonaparte believed that a leader was “A dealer of hope”.

Some claim that real leadership is knowing how to climb the corporate ladder by taking advantage of people through strategic power plays that unseats the boss above you. We have all seen this person, working their way to the top through manipulation and the misuse / abuse of people. Those of us who have been in the business of leadership for any period of time understand that style of leadership might (and I use that word very loosely) work momentarily; however, it will definitely not withstand the acid tests of leadership over the long haul!

Others herald that an authentic leader is a servant to others. While servant leadership is a timeless concept, the phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, Greenleaf said:

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.”

I believe that the concept of leadership is extremely difficult to define because it embodies two great principles: Strategy and Character. Unfortunately, both of these principles have greatly disappeared from the landscape of modern leadership practices. These are two great powerful, indispensible leadership twins.

Strategy and Character are so intricately connected that they hinge upon one another to build credibility into the life and leadership model that the leader functions within. No matter what style, system or mode of leadership you work within these two principles must be employed. Not just in your leadership role, but your whole life! Great leaders are authentic in their approach to life; this makes them a whole, complete person and leader.

Over the past 25 years I have served as a leader to thousands of people and many organizations. With great humility and the help of my creator I have led them from poverty to prosperity and from obscurity to significance. I am, by no means, a perfect person nor a perfect leader, but every day I strive to fulfill my purpose and reach my full potential. Success is relative depending on your position in life. I have been blessed to have some success in a few fields and have attempted to help other leaders succeed in theirs by life coaching them around the potholes of life that end up detouring their destiny.

People all over the world, from religious leadership to business leadership, have asked me if I have a secret. My response has been “yes and no”. “Yes” only because I have discerned what many leaders never really comprehend, nor take the time to study. “No” because the principles of Strategy and Character are universal, open for the world to see and partake. Through years of counseling and guiding people toward their goals I have seen many principles work for people. I have also seen plethora of leadership keys miserably fail for one reason or another. After thoughtfully study why people don’t succeed I found a secret that has worked for me and thousands of others.

Here is my secret: Don’t compartmentalize your life, JUST LIVE! We all have a tendency to separate our lives into separate boxes. We keep these boxes from connecting with each other; this enables us to perpetuate the façade of life. However, it greatly disables us because we aren’t authentic. By authentic I mean we don’t be who we are created to be. There is only one original you, so don’t be a cheap copy!

Compartmentalizing your life might help you manage various issues initially, but in the long-run it will lead to failure. This is especially true if we lead with that mindset. Many people work on one area and forget the other areas of leadership. For example, if you develop strategies that enable you to function at optimal potential and neglect developing character eventually the lack of strong intestinal fortitude will lead to the collapse of your leadership. It doesn’t matter how good your strategies are; your character will sustain you where your strategies take you! Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf made a powerful statement about this very issue, “Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy.” People follow leadership because of who they are, not just what they do!

Character is imperative, essential and far-reaching. It determines the way a person looks at life, opportunities and problems. It arbitrates the behavior and responses of a person in given situations.

So today I challenge you to do two things: first, just work on being the best YOU that you can be! Be authentic, be a person of character. Second, develop a strategy for success that can build on the foundation of your character. And in the midst of these two great leadership truths keep your focus on your creator. The only way you can know the original intent for a product is to go to the creator and manufacturer of that product. Your potential is limited only by your perspective of life. Broaden your horizons, expose yourself to greatness and chase your dreams.