Our society is floundering because we lack leaders. Men, called to lead themselves and others, instead of offering wise and clear direction to those in their charge, sit back and chill. By doing this, they send the message that it’s every man for himself and any option, any choice, any behavior is as good as every other.
Mark Braivo describes such a situation in this post. A volunteer coach on his kids’ soccer team refused to offer clear direction to the players, preferring instead to let them run wild. Things descended into chaos until Mark stepped in.
What did Mark do, and what can you do, to better exercise leadership?
Let’s cover the basics.
Effective leadership begins with two ingredients: a vision and the courage to make choices to bring it about.
Leaders are people who see what could be. Leaders believe in possibilities others don’t. Without a vision of something better, leadership is impossible. That is because leadership is always leadership toward something, toward a destination, a promised land yet unseen. The destination defines who is a leader much more than the size of his following. In short, a leader is someone who knows where he is going and takes action to move in that direction.
This sounds simpler than it is. If it were simple, everyone would be a leader. Most people don’t lead. They simply drift through the well-worn ruts of consumer culture picking up through psychological osmosis subtle cues about what they are expected to do, be, have, say and want.
A leader must reject this lazy approach to life. But, A leader doesn’t have to have a comprehensive vision to lead. He doesn’t have to have an answer to every question, doesn’t have to have every detail of his life planned to the Nth degree. He merely needs a list of changes he wants to make, some goals to be achieved. If you want to be a leader and feel stuck, stop worrying about the rest of your life, and just move toward some goals you’d like to achieve this week. That’s all it takes.
The Courage to Choose
The second requirement of leadership flows from the first. When you have a vision, you must make the choices most likely to bring it about. Does your vision involve writing a blog, learning to play guitar, starting a business, getting a girlfriend? Well, none of that is going to happen if you choose instead to sit around in your apartment watching sports with your buddies. Leaders sacrifice. If you want to gain the benefits that accrue to leaders, you have to begin by giving things up.
Leadership of others begins with leading yourself. Reminding yourself constantly of the vision you are pursuing will help. As you force yourself to do what is necessary to achieve your vision and surrender whatever hinders you, people will notice. They’ll want in on your game. Those people are your followers. Having a following isn’t the pre-condition of leadership, but the result of it.
Eventually, you will have to work with others to achieve your vision. At that point, things will get complicated. Here are two words to memorize to help you. Just practice saying “I want.” That’s it. You don’t have to manipulate. You don’t have to threaten or control. You just have to be the guy who knows what he wants and says so. Being that guy requires courage.
Take the obvious example. You’re out with friends. People want to go eat. What happens? Everybody stands around in a circle saying, “ Where do you want to go?” To which others reply, “I don’t know. What sounds good to you?”
At that point, a leader is going to say, “ I want Chinese.”
You’ve just offered the group some leadership. Now, if the game of “what do you want” continues, you can say, “I’m going to get Chinese. Anybody who wants to, can come,” and start walking toward your car.
Maybe nobody else will come. Probably some will. That’s because people long for leadership. They respond to it. Whoever comes with you is, for that moment at least, your follower, but they only became your follower AFTER you found the courage to speak up. Start leading and followers will appear.
You can’t solve Western Culture’s leadership crisis alone. But, you can make things better for yourself and those around you by becoming a leader in whatever small arena you command. When you have a vision and assert yourself to make it real in the area you’ve been given to govern, even if that area is nothing more than your own mind and body, others will notice, they’ll be drawn to you and you will be startled to see your kingdom expand.
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