What comes to you mind when you think of a leader? This is an interesting question and the answer will be a little different for each of us. Your answer will be influenced heavily by your past experiences and by the people who you have encountered in your life. Our past has shaped us into the leaders we are today. Yes…you are a leader. There are formal and informal leaders and each of us are called to lead from time to time. It may be in our communities, our church, maybe within our families or even with our group of friends. Make no mistake we are all called to lead are some point in our lives. When that call comes, you will have to decide what type of leader you want to be.
Having the privilege to lead others is one of the most rewarding experiences of one’s career or life. To be a successful leader takes some work. For me, that work started with a decision I made after I graduated from college. After a few years I decided to join the United States Army and was told that I had to make decision that has guided me throughout my life. While attending Officer Candidate School (OCS) and sitting in one of the many lectures on leadership, one of our instructors told us that there were two types of leaders. The first were leaders that people followed for what they wore. In the military, he was referring to of course, the rank insignia which is worn by Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) and Commissioned Officers. The second type of leader is the one people follow because who they are, the person. The instructor challenged each of us, future Army officers, to make a choice. It would be a choice that would affect us the rest of our career. It was a decision that I took seriously. I decided then that I wanted to be the kind of leader that people would want to follow even if they did not know my rank or position.
I know this discussion thus far has focused on military leaders, but it also holds true for the civilian sector. Look at your leaders and ask yourself why do you follow them. Would you follow them if you were not being paid to? If you are currently in a leadership position, do a self-evaluation and determine what type of leader you are. If you cannot determine this by yourself then ask for feedback from someone who knows you well and that you trust. This is a good strategy, but the real acid-test will come from the people you lead. You must be receptive and open to feedback, both positive and negative. People will follow you and do some extraordinary things and all most will asked for in return is for you to be a consistent and fair leader. They want to know that you are concerned about them and their needs. The mission must be accomplished; however, it will not be done well without the support of your people. Every organization needs good leaders, but you must first decide what type of leader we want to be.