A long, long time ago, before the greys, the kids, the house, the wife or the work I embarked on my first major journey. It was the path to becoming an Eagle Scout. I heard a lot of people carrying on about what becoming an Eagle Scout meant and all the lessons I would learn along the way. One term always popped up in every conversation, Leadership.
Almost 20 years later I look back and reflect on the experience that made me what I am today. Lace up them boots we are about to take a journey over some rocky terrain but I hear it's beautiful on the other side.
Before we start, STOP. Leadership is not a position or a title. It isn't handed to anybody from a superior. By it's very nature, it cannot be forced upon someone.
An Oath and a Promise
The first step is to take up the mantle of something bigger than yourself, your duty and purpose. In Scouts this was your oath, the Scout Oath. Duty to God & Country, Duty to Others, Duty to Self. First major clue here folks. Duty to self comes last. Most “Leaders” today put their self first. If you are worried about your self than you cannot be sufficiently worried about your other duties or the people you are responsible for.
The second step is you learn the law, The Scout Law. A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Thrifty, Cheerful, Brave, Clean & Reverent. Yes, each scout or leader benefits from the bi product of each of these qualities but more important and more substantially, the people around you benefit from them. It does not take a clairvoyant to see that, if you are abiding to the Scout Law, you are going to be a pretty unique and likeable individual person. Could you imagine what it would be like to work for someone or even an entire organization that was filled with people that conducted their self that way. I can because I lived it and I will tell you what, It's AMAZING. The things we accomplished and overcame would blow your mind.
Finally You learn the Scout Motto- Be Prepared & The Scout Slogan- Do A Good Turn Daily and BAM! You just got your first rank. You are now on the path to Eagle and if you learn these lessons well, you will inadvertently become a leader.
See everybody knows a boss or has had a boss that was a kiss ass or a save ass, you couldn't trust them, maybe they were a tyrant, maybe they were only motivated by self interest. Did you consider that person a leader? I really hope not. On the flip side hopefully you had a boss you loved, was good to you, handled their responsibilities and when things went wrong they were the first to stand up to be accountable. Perhaps they took the heat off of you for a mistake you made. Was that person a leader. If they weren't, they were getting close.
An individual cannot be a leader but a person can. Teams are made up of people working towards a common goal. Every team needs a leader. Be careful because individuals ruin teams.
Leaders are not hard to spot. People are frequently naturally drawn to them. A lot of times they are the first on the job and the last to leave. If they leave early its probably because they are working behind the scenes. Because “The Leader” has purpose, duty, responsibilities and is accountable they are usually working long after the point when everybody has gone home. They are often planning because a Leader goes no where without a plan, otherwise they would be a wanderer not a leader.
I don't think business is structured to breed or develop leaders but they sure as hell need them and they suffer without them. Bosses are appointed by their superiors, Leaders are elected by their team. Show of hands, how many people have elected their boss? The realist in me imagines very few hands went up if any. Inevitably I see time and time again the absolute worst candidate for a supervisor position get the nod because they neglected their duties, they had no responsibility to anyone but their self and spent all their time befriending the bosses and networking instead of learning and doing their job and helping their team. I don't see any sign of this trend reversing.
If you want to be a leader, find a good leader, then watch and learn from them. Keep these principles in mind. I was fortunate I stumbled into an organization designed to nurture leadership. If you do learn the qualities and skills to become a great leader, be prepared to be frustrated... A Lot.... by a lot of bad “leaders” out there.
A true leader will always be in the front, a boss will always be in the back. Remember true Leaders are elected and a lot of them don't want the job but will take it because of duty and purpose to take care of those around them.