Leadership is a wildly fascinating concept. It was during the “classic” childhood game, known as “Follow the Leader,” that I had my first encounter with leadership. If you have ever played it, you may recall that everyone wanted the opportunity to be the leader, and they had no doubt that they deserved the opportunity to lead as much as anyone else did. As silly as it may sound, I have gleaned some simple and practical truths from that popular game. I will share more about this later on. In the meantime, imagine how far we have drifted from the simple truth that leadership is for everyone. When did we lose the mindset that everyone who is willing to lead is capable of doing so? It is my greatest desire to redefine leadership as a cultural competence and global imperative. This led to the establishment of L.I.F.E. Concepts, where we believe that “Leadership Is For Everyone.”
The first step in redefining leadership is determining what it is not. As surprising as it may sound, leadership is not synonymous with titles, credentials or positions. While these may lend themselves to the practice of leading, they are by no means requirements or qualifications for leadership. Can you think of someone you would consider to be a leader, who lacks a title, position or credentials? I can think of several. Furthermore, leadership is not reserved for those bearing formal titles or hierarchal appointments. Think of it this way: being the boss does not necessarily make one an effective leader. It is assumptions such as these that have fostered a belief that leadership is for a privileged select few. This caste system philosophy has undermined the very essence and aim of true leadership. Ultimately, it has caused many to disqualify themselves and avoid opportunities to lead. The call of leadership is often ignored or overlooked, resulting in chaos, disorder and the absence of authentic role models. Leadership is simply a vehicle to produce change on any scale. I like to say it this way: “leadership is a means to an end, not an end by any means.” The absence of authentic leadership is the root cause of many of our moral, social, ethical and spiritual dilemmas throughout the world. These principles only serve as the framework for your new leadership paradigm. Developing the proper leadership paradigm is essential to becoming an effective leader. Are you experiencing a shift in your thoughts surrounding leadership? I can only hope that your response is an enthusiastic yes! If that is the case, then you are well on your way to becoming an effective leader.
I am sure we can all agree that there are numerous definitions for the words leader and leadership. For the purpose of this book, I like to define leaders simply as individuals learning to effectively leverage their influence to improve their world. All too often, when asked to envision a great leader, we seldom consider ourselves. Whether this exclusion is conscious or unconscious, it is evidence that we need a shift in our paradigms surrounding leadership. Leadership is not a destination, but a process or journey of both personal and professional development. The definition has evolved through a number of theories, from those suggesting that leaders are born with a unique chromosome or genetic trait, all the way to theories that leaders create vision, motivate and mobilize others toward a common goal.
If a leader is someone who creates vision, motivates and mobilizes others toward a common goal, then that means that leadership could be a product of learned skills or natural talent. This crucial shift in our beliefs surrounding leadership will level the playing field, promoting an “it’s me” philosophy of leadership. What is an “it’s me” philosophy of leadership? It is the firm belief that you have the ability and capacity to lead. For far too long, we have looked everywhere for a leader, except in the mirror. Your personal thoughts and beliefs surrounding YOUR personal leadership ability are more vital than your actual gifts and talents. Your thoughts have the ability to limit your growth and development, and ultimately your progress. In the absence of a proper paradigm or mindset, your gifts and talents may remain undeveloped, underdeveloped or even idle. A familiar proverb states, “As a man thinks, so he is” (Prov. 23:7). Simply stated, thoughts are the true building blocks of behavior and attitude. They are not harmless, silent nor invisible. They are often spoken aloud and clearly visible in our attitudes and behaviors.
The blueprint for effective leadership begins in your mind. Are your personal thoughts surrounding leadership self-defeating or self-affirming? Maybe at one point you were confident and excited about the opportunity to lead; an unfortunate experience could have robbed you of that confidence, leaving you to conclude that leadership is not for you. It is important that you realize that leadership is not pass or fail, but progressive. Leadership is a learned process, and life provides the virtual classroom designed to develop the leader in you!
May this article bring you one step closer in your journey toward discovering and developing the leader in you!