Are you a leader?
Are you leading?
Two similar questions people often answer differently. The truth is these are the same question. You are not a leader unless you are leading. You might be a supervisor, a director, an esteemed politician, executive or boss, but that doesn’t mean you are a leader. Sorry; you can’t kid yourself on this one. Leadership is binary – you’re either leading or you’re not. It’s that simple.
So then, what is leading? How do you define leadership?
Most people believe that if they hold a position of authority they are a leader. That’s just not so. Having power, legitimate, positional, relational, expert or of some other kind, does not mean you are a leader or that you are leading. The exercise of power in and of itself is not leading. Leadership is something more; something special.
The dictionary says – leading – is to be out front, first, preceding; and to be a leader is to guide others, to show them the way. Leading is not directing, coercing, forcing, bullying, intimidating, extorting, commanding, compelling, imploring or a myriad of other applications of power. No. To lead is to show the way; to guide other people to a new, and I would say, a better place. You must be in the trenches. You must be out front. You must set the example. There is no other way.
The most common and widely accepted definition of leadership is to influence others to get something done. Influence is not enough.
Think of yourself walking down the street. Ahead of you, you see a group of suspicious looking men so you decide to cross the street. Those men influenced you. Would you say they were your leaders? Of course not. Leadership is about more than influence. Leadership is about moving people in a positive direction.
You can get tasks done and influence people, for better or for worse, by exercising power. You just won’t be leading.
In times of trouble; when we are heading individually or collectively in the wrong direction leadership is lacking. It’s not that we don’t have politicians and business executives, social elites and adored celebrities. The problem is no one is leading. No one is capturing people’s attention and inspiring them to let their God-given greatness shine. That’s what leadership is about.
Leadership is fundamentally about inspiring people to act: to do and experience to ultimately become better versions of themselves. Leadership is about inspiring growth; inspiring people to live up to their potential.
People lead by living up to their potential. You lead by living up to yours.
Leading and leadership are more about who you are and who you have become than it is about tactics, techniques and procedures. To lead – to lead well and lead effectively – become the best version of you. This is first and foremost a personal challenge. Are you up to the challenge?
Are you ready, willing and able to do what it takes to transform yourself into the example?
Leaders set the example and live the standard. What you say and what you do must be connected; must be congruent; in line and consistent. People don’t hear what you say if you do something different.
Do something great and set the example. Be someone great and inspire others. Inspire people to move in a positive direction. Only if and when you do this – inspire people; fill them with the courage, energy and enthusiasm to act, grow and become – are you leading.
What you and they are specifically doing, the task you are trying to achieve, doesn’t matter. That you are helping them to grow into their full potential does. Only when you inspire people to move toward their greatness are you leading.
So if you want to lead, move toward your greatness first.
Scott F. Paradis
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