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Where will the leaders of the future come from? Will a magic genie wave a wand over us and in the blink of an eye create a new generation of leaders? I think not, so I suggest that each of you must look inward and grow your leadership skills. You can do wonders, if you try.
How often have we looked outward for leadership in our lives? How often have we missed opportunities to achieve success because we waited for orders and directions from a leader?
During the past year, I spent serious reading time in the area of leadership style and development. Normally, my selections are from sources throughout America. Whether they are classic or modernistic, they are basically “America” thoughts. In the past year, however, a number of my readings were from researchers in other countries. It is interesting to see how our leadership thoughts examined from a completely different perspective. Much of what we consider to be the Holy Grail of leadership apparently does not play well in other parts of the world. It reminds me of a book that I read in the 1960s, The Ugly American, which taught that we are not perfect, but we work to force our ways on everyone else.
Perhaps the most interesting aspects of one of the texts, In Search of Leaders by Hilarie Owens, came from her listing of what she calls her seven key essences of leadership. Some you may have seen or heard before, while others present a new view of the leadership world. They are as follows:
- Leadership is distinctly different from management and is not just something to be added on to the job of a manager.
- Everyone is born with some gift of leadership, be it great or small. It is part of the human spirit and should be expressed in the world.
- Leadership is not a “fad.”
- Leadership starts with the individual and requires a journey of becoming your true self.
- Leadership requires us to understand and listen to what is emerging in the world.
- Leadership is expressed by everyone when people are connected and part of the whole.
- Leadership is about being followers as well as leaders.
I have always thought that leaders and managers were different kinds of people. Would you rather follow a combat infantryman or an accountant into battle? Would you rather attack a burning building fire with a fire vehicle mechanic or a trained engine company? These are simple, but easily understood examples.
Those people who have traveled toward the managerial world have usually become enamored of things. They are not worried about individual people; rather, they are hung up on dollars and things. To many managers, a person is a thing, just like a tire, an ax or a fire department pumper. Each has an expense and each is thought of in terms of cost.
Real leaders think of people as people. Each person who worked with me over the years had an intrinsic value. I worked to support and nurture each one of them. What I was to the organization, I was as a result of them and their labors. We were inextricably tied together. Many of my greatest conflicts in the fire service have been with bean counters. They urge us to do more with less, not understanding that they had not given us enough in the first place. I guess this is why I am so hung up on the manager-versus-leader analogy. I have seen the damage that such people can do.
As leaders, we are asked to empower our people. We want them to experience some form of buy-in with all that we are asking them to do. Owens speaks to this when she tells us that there is a little bit of the leader born into each of us. Have you ever been in a situation in which someone you know simply stepped up to the plate during a serious emergency and performed in a way that you might never have expected?