How To Be A Leader - Overcoming Fear And Finding Your Tribe
I just finished watching a great video of marketing genius and Squidoo founder Seth Godin. I'm almost ashamed to admit I had never heard of Seth Godin before today, but I'm sure I'm not the only one. This man is a great speaker and the insights he's shared have really put some things into perspective for me. All this after reading just a few of his free e-books, taking a glimpse at his blog and watching some YouTube videos. But before this starts looking like a Seth Godin fan club hub, let's get back to the topic at hand.
The reason I am mentioning Seth is because he has a very interesting approach to the question of leadership, and it's one that seems to coincide with my own understandings. I want to share some of my thoughts on leadership and how to be a leader here in this hub, and I also want to hear your thoughts about leadership.
Before we get started, I'd like to share the video I mentioned. Please note that it was filmed at a lecture and by the looks of it with a camera phone, so the quality isn't perfect, but it's really worth watching.
Leaders Are Hard To Come By
Originally, I was going to title this "Good leaders are hard to come by", but I realized it's not so much a question of skillful leadership, but will to lead at all. The fact is, in my experience, very few people want to take on any sort of leadership role. Why is that?
I suspect it has a lot to do with comfort level. A lot of people let their fear of rejection or fear of failure paralyze them. It's just generally safer being a follower these days. You get to survey the terrain a bit, and see what the guys in charge are doing. You can watch their results, and jump on board with what looks like the best idea, and then if it doesn't work out, well it's not your fault. That guy just didn't know what he was talking about, after all.
Few people stop outside this comfort zone. And who can blame them? The leader may get to direct things, but they also carry the burden of being fully responsible and accountable for the results of those directions. To many people, that sort of pressure just isn't worth it.
And yet if we look at leadership in a different light, an ability to lead is pretty much a requirement in our daily lives. We just don't often acknowledge these instances as leadership roles. I think it might be the nature of our society that following can become so much more comfortable than leading. It is, after all, what we're used to. We follow our governments, we follow our teachers, we even "follow the news". But do we lead? Are leaders hard to come by or is it just that leadership can be hard to recognize?
What is Leadership?
Leadership is, a common dictionary will tell us, the ability to show the way or guide. No matter what our job or our familiar situation, there is likely to be instances where all of us play this role. Think for a moment on what types of things you are able to show others how to do. If you have any particular skill or ability that sets you apart from others, you are capable of leadership.
Being a leader requires more than just the ability to lead, though, in my opinion. In fact, I think everyone does have that ability. The most important aspect, I believe, is the will to do exercise it. You could likely teach a child to tie their shoes. That would be a leadership role. Whether or not you choose to take on that role is a matter of will, or choice.
To me, leadership is the ability and the decision to act as a guide to someone who has need of some knowledge or skill that you possess.
What Makes You A Leader?
There is then, by definition, two primary components to being a leader:
- Some knowledge or skill that can be imparted to another
- The ability and decision to do so
Of course, we don't want to overlook the missing element of someone or something to lead. Without someone to guide, we can't function as a leader, at all.
We live in a time where there is a wealth of information available, and a large appetite for it. But what there is not a wealth of is people who are willing to guide others in the application of that knowledge. In other words, we can quite easily consult a search engine for details of marketing strategies, and gain all sorts of useful data, but can we just as easily find a guide who will show us how to actually use that data?
The opportunity is there for those who wish to take it. You don't have to be a brilliant speaker or a literary genius. You don't have to be an "expert", a term that is being used so frequently now without real qualification that it has become almost meaningless. What you do need to possess is the desire to be a guide on a subject that you either know well or simply know better than those whom you are guiding.
That's really all it takes. Don't be intimidated by the notion of being a leader. Choose a niche, find some piece of data that is useful to you and apply it yourself. See how it works. Learn from that, and you are more than qualified to teach that piece of data to others. That's where it starts. As you learn, and advance, you will be able to help those you're guiding to learn and advance, as well, and they in turn, will help others.
Leadership doesn't need to conjure up images of suited politicians at rallies, or business tycoons on a stage. Leadership can be as simple as showing someone how to do something or where to find something. Teach what you know, and know what you teach.
What Do You Think?
What are the essential elements of being a leader?
Who are some of the leaders that you follow?
What tips do you have on how to be a good leader?