Will the Real Leaders Please Stand Up

“Life’s a dance you learn as you go
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Don’t worry about what you don’t know
Life’s a dance you learn as you go.”
-John Michael Montgomery

Internet-based research on a topic as crucial, yet vague as leadership comes with a catch. Google’s search results tend to display the most simple and digestible advice. While lots of great insight exists, leadership is prone to clichés.

As cookie-cutter advice spreads like online like wildfire, the relevant layers of depth for a topic as rich as leadership hide somewhere far off in the distance. The art of conversation, human relationships, expectation-setting, professionalism, and all the other things that make leadership happen require an especially human touch.

Despite it’s intricacies, leadership is a skill and any skill is capable of improvement. Through life we realize that some people are better leaders than others but what made them this way?

Is there such a thing as a born leader? If so, who becomes one?

What is Leadership Anyway

Leadership (noun) – “The action of leading a group of people or an organization.” – Oxford Dictionary via Google

Notice in the above definition, there is no reference to status, position, authority, or obligation to obey commands in any way. This is crucial to recognize because we have all been leaders at some point in our lives and we have also been followers.

Even if you hold formal status as a leader, you will still need to follow others and doing so often may be of tremendous benefit. Any time you are providing information to others, encouraging them to do something, or even providing advice, you are practicing leadership skills.

We are social creatures who must learn from each other. You are a leader, whether you recognize it or not. You may not a leader at all times, but that is okay. No one is skilled enough to carry such a burden anyway.

Who are the Leaders?

Below is a litany of life factors, situations, and circumstances which have undoubtedly at some point asked you to provide leadership to other humans.

  • Provide information

Have you ever been asked a question about something that you have expertise on?

  • Provide Advice: 

Ever had someone ask you for advice? 

  • Raise and teach children:

Ever taught children as a teenager or adult?

  • Babysit children:

Ever supervised children as a teenager or adult?

  • Lead a discussion:

Ever brought up a topic of interest to you in conversation, or in a group setting?

While these may not come with the title of a “leader,” or even external recognition as a leader, these are all cases in which you can practice your leadership skills because all of the elements of leadership exist in these situations.

If you are human and have lived through childhood, chances are you have already been called upon to lead in many situations. After entering adulthood, this is all but certain.

The Traits of Leaders

“You see that guy over there? He’s a born leader.” – An Overused Cliche

When leaders seek an outcome, they often realize they must inspire or recruit followers. When followers seek influence on certain topics, they turn to leaders who provide guidance. If you have lived long enough to get through childhood, you have likely experienced this countless times.

Some people may be considered leaders based on a multitude of factors. Brian Tracy, a leading voice on this topic has outlined 7 overall qualities, attributes, and characteristics that apply to leaders.

  1. Vision
  2. Courage
  3. Integrity
  4. Humility
  5. Strategic Planning
  6. Focus
  7. Cooperation

When called upon to influence or organize others in order to accomplish something, leadership attributes from the above categories are deterministic in success. This persists week to week, day to day, and even hour to hour in our daily lives.

Leaders Know when to Follow

So-called “born leaders” may have some innate tendencies which make them more naturally inclined toward leadership but more than likely, they were raised that way or exposed to role models.

We must admit that people who earn enough respect from others to voluntarily subject themselves to influence have a magnetic ability. However, this is not an ordained destiny that was determined at birthright.

Leadership is driven by ongoing action and character development, not innate characteristics. In order to become so influential, leaders must carefully discern what they allow to influence their development.

How to Develop Leadership Skills

Leadership is a skill that can developed and improved by anyone living on planet earth. Since developing into an outstanding leader comes with endless layers of depth, no human being has yet executed it perfectly.

It is likely no one ever will either. As with all skills, this will take time and you will make mistakes.

In the spirit of keeping things ultra simple, the following 2 step formula will take you where you want to go.

  1. Follow
  2. Lead

It could not be more simple. Follow, lead, and then repeat. John Michael Montgomery truly said it best. “Life is a dance you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.”

As you dance through life with an heightened awareness of the surrounding leadership dynamics and countless opportunities to grow, don’t forget to capitalize. The lessons are gained through fellowship and a willingness to follow when appropriate. As this process repeats, you become increasingly prepared for the time when you will be called upon to lead others.

Leaders must craft a vision, develop focus, and a strategic plan. As long as you do so with a spirit of cooperation, a willingness to test your philosophies, and learn, you will develop courage, integrity, and humility.

Once you truly possess these traits, others will see them in you and be drawn to you like a magnet.

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