Success and tenacity go hand in hand.
Dave Cunningham / October 3, 2008
Elect me. I will lead you to a wonderful place. I promise. Really, I will, because I am a leader. What? You want me to take the lead? Oh, um, uh, yes I will, as soon as I am elected. But let me tell you about my opponent. He/she is not a leader. I have led in the past and will lead in the future. But I can’t right now because I am too busy trying to convince you that I am a leader.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard or read the word “leader” in the past eighteen months. John McCain says he is the best leader because he is a war hero and long-time U.S. Senator. Obama says he is a leader because he was a community organizer in Chicago. This makes for great speeches and fun debates over who is the best leader. The question that comes to mind is that with all the problems, like the current economic meltdown, why not take the lead? Prove yourself.
The politicians talk about leadership but they don’t lead. Why? Because if they try to lead, they could make a mistake and then they may not be elected leader. That’s a problem?
So, what is a leader? Some say that leaders are born. These people are willing to step up, take responsibility and run with it. They effectively inspire others to act. People are drawn to them and want to follow. Maybe this is a born leader. Can leaders be made? Organizations like the military and big corporate businesses think so. They spend resources to develop leaders. There are leadership conferences and seminars. Hundreds of books have been written about leadership.
We are fascinated with the idea of leadership because we want to believe that someone has a better idea of how to get through life’s difficulties or has better answers to our problems than we have ourselves. We want to be led. Maybe that’s what makes a leader, having followers.
I heard once that to be a leader, find out what direction everyone is going and get out in front of them. Voila! You’re a leader. Of course, you have to keep looking over your shoulder to maintain the lead. If they suddenly shift direction you could find yourself proudly leading no one. I recommend that if you choose this leadership strategy, invest in a rearview mirror. That way you can stay out in front without losing your followers. The problem then will be that you will not see where you are going. So you will be effectively leading your people while having no idea where you are going. But, you will be a leader.
We hold elections to choose who will lead our country, states and cities. But can we really elect a leader? No. We can elect someone to lead. But there is no assurance that we will get a leader. If we do, he or she may lead us someplace we don’t want to go. We don’t know who is a good leader or a bad leader until we have followed for awhile.
I conclude that leaders are not born or trained. Leaders are created by circumstances. For example, George W Bush looked nothing like a leader as planes flew into the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 and he sat reading to a classroom of children. But by the time he reached ground zero to address the rescue workers, circumstances had changed. Who can ever forget his response to one of the workers who called out, “We can’t hear you.” Without a pause, Bush fired back “I can hear you, the rest of the world can hear you and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” A leader emerged.
We can agree or disagree with everything that has happened since then, Homeland Security, Iraq, Afghanistan. But no one can argue that we have not been led by this president. What circumstances will form our next leader?