5 Things I Know About Leadership

Picture this. You are at your job, diligently doing the work you do everyday without a second thought. Even before you got into work, you knew you were already swamped, and that there wasn't enough hours in the day to get everything done. When all of a sudden HR comes down by you, and tells you that because of some restructuring; you will not only have to complete all the work that you have, but you will also be in charge of 10 other employees, and their workloads. What do you do? This isn't a typical way people acquire more responsibility, or to be placed in leadership type rolls. However, majority of the people that are thrust into this spotlight are ill-equipped to handle the added pressure, responsibility, and accountability. The sad truth is that most people, and most companies do not train to become leaders until they are in that position. By that time it's too late to make a profound impact, you will continually be playing catchup, being behind every step of the way, and one of the only things you can do to mitigate this is to work more hours. Now who wants to do that? This is why most business's are failing, this is why the majority of people are failing, and in the same breath blaming others for their failures. I get that in the example I put in front of you earlier isn't typical, and that there was virtually zero time for that person to put themselves into a position to succeed. However, you can't just wave a magic wand and become a leader, you can't just snap your fingers, and poof you're filled with leadership acumen. In my life long pursuit to become a more knowledgeable, and dynamic leader. My journey has blessed me with a couple insights that might be known; but not really talked about when someone is working to become a leader, or have the weight of leadership placed upon their shoulders. I have come across five realizations that I believe will help grant you insight on what it means to be a leader, what work is involved to be an effective leader, and why we should all strive to be leaders in our lives. You might be sitting there asking yourself a couple questions though. How do I become a [better] leader? What if I don't think I am capable of leading? What if there is already a leader in my space? Each one is an extremely valid question, worthy of exploring and pulling apart. Because I truly believe that each, and everyone of us has leadership potential in us, and can become leaders. Does not matter if you are an introvert or a extravert, male or female, tall or small; each and everyone of us has it in us to become something amazing. "How do I become a [better] leader?" In a nutshell you can read books pertaining to leadership, or about people who have been leaders, or been put in leadership situations. You can watch videos based on leadership, go to seminars, or conferences, take courses and become certified in various leadership philosophies. You can also, and just like OJT (On the Job Training), which I view is the fastest way to learn something, you can find a mentor to guide you with their knowledge, and insight. What all of those examples right there have in common is that "knowledge is power." You don't know what you don't know, and that is just fine. No one should be expected to magically know how to do something if they haven't ever been in contact with it. Which brings me to this idea, and that is you need to first try, and then fail, and fail often. Everyone wants to win, we all want to succeed, and get it right the first time. The best teacher we can have in this world is ourselves failing. When we fail we find the gaps that we missed, that led to our failing. We are given the rare ability to have our feedback come back to us right away. Because when people aren't lead right, they will let you know. Which also means that you can adjust your leadership tactics, and style on the fly. Have you heard the phrase "Rome wasn't built in a day." That should be your viewpoint when it comes to developing yourself as a leader. You won't get it done in one day, you won't master it all at once, you will need to take your time, and a be constant student to your craft. "What if I don't think I am capable of leading?" I am going to refer back to "knowledge is power." History it littered with all different types, and kinds of people who were leaders. Who lead when they were called to, and who lead when there was no other choice. Find those inspirational stories, and read them over and over. Immerse yourself in their life, in their story, so that you know, they are just regular humans just like you. Find yourself a mentor! Whether it's someone in your current company, or maybe it's someone in a field you want to go in, or someone on the internet that you like the way they carry themselves. No matter what your motive is, find yourself someone that can show you the ropes, and get you passed some of the early struggles they dealt with, to help you speed up that learning curve. If I'm starting to sound like a broken record, it's because a lot of these insights are universal. Not just to leadership, but every aspect of your life. If you could just incorporate a single one of these ideas, they will dramatically improve your life, and improve the way you see life. You never know if you will be any good at anything if at first you don't try it. You never know if you are going to like something if you don't give it a try. What if Michael Jordan never tried playing basketball again after being cut from his high school jv team? What if Beethoven stopped composing music because he was deaf? Again, the world is full of people, past and present, that tried something, failed at it, but kept going, and turned out to be someone great. Why not you? "What if there is already a leader in my space?" Stand firm, and be confident in your abilities to lead and be a leader. Leaders are like snowflakes, there are no two alike, and like a snowflake they are all equally as stunning in their element. I firmly believe that everyone can be a leader, at any point in their life. That means that you, and that other leader can both coexist in the same space, trying to lead the same organization in the same direction, and both receive two completely different results. Make your own damn space! Just like the snowflake, there are no two leaders a like; which bodes well for you, because the space you want to be in, and the space where you belong are two different things. Just because someone has walked down a path, doesn't mean that you need to walk down that same path. Make your own path, blaze your own trail. You will find out that you've been living a life that wasn't meant for you previously, and now you are in your element. Just because there is already a leader in the space you want to be in, does not mean that you cannot occupy space in that arena as well. I know many people preach competition, always being the best, working harder than the other guy, and taking no prisoners. There is nothing out there that says you can't collaborate. In fact that is the best thing to do. Pool your resources, knowledge, wisdom together, and create something of value for those people whom you wish to lead. Instead of constantly being combative, and taking away from your message. Have you figured out what a couple of the realizations might be when it comes to becoming an effective leader? If not, no big deal, we are here to learn, and to increase out knowledge not only about this chosen path, but also about ourselves.

  1. Leadership is hard.

As the old saying goes "If it was easy, then everyone would be doing it."

  1. Leaders are hard to come by.

It takes a special type of person to take on the responsibility of being, not only in charge of others, but also to care for those people, and not just look at them like a number.

  1. No one teaches leadership, they teach management.

It is said that "managers do things right, leaders do the right things." Most consultants, and so called leadership experts teach -- and preach -- managing situations, and people, but wrap it up in terms of leadership. That’s like a wolf in sheep's clothing. Leaders don't manage situations, they make the hard, tough calls, because they know it's the right thing to do, even if that means they are put in a bad position.

  1. Leadership can be lonely, but it doesn't have to be.

Many view leadership as being the one out in front leading the way to get the job done. They see leaders as more of a solidary person, because if there is too much attachment it clouds the leaders judgement. Nothing could be further from the truth. Leaders love those they lead, and in most cases view them as family. They make the tough decisions not out of distance, but out of love.

  1. We are all leaders.

Not all the time, but we are all put in situations to be leaders. You most likely won't end up as one of the greatest leaders in history. The majority of your life will be spent more as a follower than as a leader, but when it's your time to shine, you will have no excuse but to rise to the challenge. Leaders are all shapes, sizes, demeanors, characteristics, etc. No two leaders are the same, no two styles are the same. Embrace your abilities. I want to leave you with this thought. There are many volumes of books out there detailing the lives of some of the greatest leaders throughout history. We read and learn about them in school, and possibly on our own free time. These brave men and woman are captains of industry, they are military powerhouses, they are entrepreneur savvy. What you rarely hear about are the daily leaders, the single parents, raising their kids while working a dead end job to make ends meet. The random person in public that stands against injustice at any level. The one that calls "bullshit" on the lies and slight of hand that is being pushed on them by their oppressor's. Leaders are everywhere, they show themselves daily. They aren't just the ones we read about in our history books. When you are looking for a leader, or need inspiration of someone showing up as a leader because they have no other choice. You might want to look in your own house, or your neighbors. The leadership you need might be closer to you than you think.