Leadership is more than just being the boss

I recently overheard a casual conversation discussing what it means to be a good leader. Though I’ve posted parts of this piece before, I feel it always needs repeating in a world filled with actors.

I have a great deal of respect for those individuals in life who have a firm grasp of what it means to truly be called a “good leader” – and a great deal of contempt for those who pretend they are.

I remember when I attended Growing Tree nursery school many, many years ago. One of the first games we played was “Follow the Leader”. The concept is pretty straight forward – one child is chosen to lead the group around the classroom or the playground like a group of baby geese following their mother.

Your job is to make sure you keep up with the group or you’ll be left behind.  But beyond the simplicity of the game lies a valuable lesson many of us probably never realized we were learning – the importance of a good leader.

Be it in our government offices, our educational institutions, the places we work or even our own homes, each day we’re presented with actors who think they’re portraying the role of a “good leader” when in reality that title exists in name only.

It’s no surprise then that the absence of a successful leader in all facets of life has caused the world we live in to become a place of uncertainty rather than security. As with “Follow the Leader”, the game is only as good as the leader you’re following. While leading a group of five year olds over a stack of building blocks is never a good idea, the same holds true in the real world we inhabit.

Society is filled with two types of people: those who lead and those who simply boss others around. There is a fine line between the two and as most of us come to realize as we journey through life, there seems to be more of the later. Leaders are not successful because of the skills they possess, but rather for the trust and respect they gain from others – skills not easily attained from a text book or seminar.

You see leadership is all about behavior. Anyone can simply be the “boss,” but how many of us can truly lead others with integrity, honesty, humility, courage, sincerity and compassion? Not many I’m afraid.

John Aurther’s book Personality Development states that, “Although your position as a leader gives you the authority to accomplish certain tasks and objectives in your organization, this power does not make you a leader…it simply makes you the boss. Leadership differs in that it makes the followers want to achieve high goals, rather than simply bossing people around.”

In my opinion, today’s world is starved for leadership, just look around you.

We all need someone to believe in, someone we can place our trust as the years go by. The “bosses” of the world long for our respect, our dedication and our commitment, but do little to give us reasons to do so. Respect is something that needs to be earned, dedication comes from appreciation, and commitment can only be practiced when the leader you’re following isn’t taking the group over a stack of building blocks.


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