"Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions." — Harold S. Geneen
Leaders are often understood to be those that are in a position of power—with titles like supervisor, manager, boss, president, king, queen, or cult leader—but in truth leadership has nothing to do with a title. Consider this: is a man or woman a true leader if the only reason that people follow them is because they have to follow them? Is a true leader someone who has subordinates that have no choice but to fall in line? Or, is a true leader someone who has followers who want to follow them because of what he or she does for the group and for what they help produce together?
Leadership is perhaps best understood as a vision for a better future, an initiative to jump into action, and a desire to build positive relationships. This kind of leadership has everything to do with developing those around us and encouraging them to boldly step forward and share their passions. Most of all, this kind of leadership is about the personal responsibility to endure unto the end, even when giving up would be far easier. In this way, leadership is much more about self-leadership than leadership of others.
Superficial leaders are all around us, with their arrogant attitudes and bloated egos, but true leaders are all around us too. They are the ones who, as Voltaire’s Candid says, quietly tend to their gardens, for the labor keeps them from the three great evils: weariness, vice, and want.
True leaders are the parents who work two jobs to support their children, and they are the billionaires who make their children earn their own way. They are the janitors who keep our world clean with pride, and they are the CEOs who make grand decisions with humility. True leaders are the ones who quietly do what is right, even when they could easily get away with doing what is wrong for personal gain. We’ll often never notice a true leader at first sight—they won’t necessarily be the one’s at the head of the line, and they won’t necessarily have fancy titles—but we’ll always notice them in the storms of life. They’re the ones who jump into action when everyone else is paralyzed with fear and resignation. They are the ones who keep us going when giving up would be the far easier way out.
True leaders are prepared for these moments because they have vision and initiative, because they are invested in the success of others, and because they take personal responsibly. The Magic Word Leadership reminds us that if we want a better world for ourselves and the future generations, then it starts with you, quietly tending to our garden, according to your ability.
Whether you hold a fancy title or not, how can you demonstrate the qualities of a true leader? And if you do have a fancy title, what can you do to be more worthy of that title? Meaning, what can you do to inspire people to want to follow you even if they didn’t have to?
Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.