When any question is posed pertaining to leadership, our minds turn to the leaders we see in our lives. That could mean Barack Obama, or Emma Watson, or even the popular captain of our school’s football team. We think of the people the most far reaching in our communities, the people with the loudest voices. Initially, I think everyone of us looks to the most enthusiastic person we can think of, and use them as our models.
I want to propose someone different. I don’t think that what makes a leader is their commanding voice or unyielding determination. These things certainly don’t hurt, but I think there are other variables to consider in this equation. I want to propose the radical idea that not all leaders are easy to spot, and they don’t all need to move vast crowds to tears. What really makes a leader, is their ability to be observant, to be committed, and to be willing to take action.
Leaders need to be able to identify the needs of others. If Mother Theresa didn’t see the difficulties of the poor and the orphaned, she never would have reached out to help them. If your classmate never saw how you sat alone at lunch, they never would have invited you to eat with them. It is the leader’s ability to see these needs in the first place, and to identify problems before they become obvious, that sets them apart. It is easy to see widespread mistreatment, or a slight against yourself. The leader, however, able to notice how others are being treated as they go about their daily lives. Leaders, after noticing a problem within their community, need to be committed to it. No one needs a rebel without a cause, they need someone to stick with them and help no matter how difficult it may get. No one wants someone who only does a half a job, or who tries to take on too much, or bounces between issues. Leadership is about relationship, and no one wants to be with someone who they can’t trust to stay with them.
Relatedly, sticking with an issue is not the same as doing something about it. Caring isn’t enough if you don’t actually try to help. Talking about things is important, but bringing awareness to an issue isn’t enough to make someone a leader; you shouldn’t talk the talk if you’re not willing to walk the walk. A leader is fearless and will fight for their cause as they best can, and that means not just delegating tasks to other. Leaders will get their hands dirty, which is what makes those around them respect and want to follow them.
All in all, a leader is an observant action person. These characteristics don’t depend on outward appearance, or on how outgoing they are. These people are trailblazers, who will lead even if there are not many willing to follow. They are compassionate, even if caring isn’t cool. And, finally, they are working harder than everyone else because they know they are setting the pace and being a good example to their followers.
Some are born with these characteristics, some are taught them, and others develop them throughout their life. Observant people have discovered how to keep their mouths closed and just listen. Commitment can be developed throughout one’s life, as
sticking with things will always produce the most fruitful results. But being an action person is a piece of your personality, it can only be superimposed if other someone is surrounded by other leaders who teach them to be like this. Learning to utilize these attributes is not something that can be taught. An individual must be aware and willing to use themselves as a tool for improvement, or as a catalyst for change. Leaders take responsibility the power they wield and learn to use it responsibly.
Leading is complicated, it is difficult, but it is completely doable. Anyone can be a leader, if only they recognize how to, and work to be the best that they can. That is what makes a leader.