As parents, we sometimes fall into the trap of telling our kids you can be anything you want to be. High school and university graduation speeches are steeped in platitudes affirming to the gathered that their potential is limitless. Optimism abounds, and so it should. But is it true? Can I be anything I want to be? Can I be tomorrow’s leader? And what exactly is a leader?
Fear not, I will not pretend to espouse what a good leader is or isn’t, as each of us will have a different opinion on the matter. Not all of us will be attracted to the same leadership style. Ultimately, we each have the freedom to select whom we choose to emulate and whose example we will follow. Is our preferred leader the vocal type prone to shouting go team go? Are they more inclined to lead by example and say come follow me? Does our preferred leader endeavor to be a leader? Perhaps they more inclined to be the accidental leader envisioned recently in the movie, The Two Popes when they paraphrased Plato: the first requirement of a leader, is to not want to be a leader. We will each have our preference, and they may all differ. If you doubt this to be true, google what is a good leader – you’ll need to pack a lunch before descending into that rabbit hole and when you emerge, you may not have gained any clarity on the matter. There does not appear to be a consensus.
So much is made of the word leader that we have come to accept the word as synonymous with positive human attributes. To be considered a natural-born leader is accepted as a compliment. The corollary would be, that followers are somehow, less than. After all, have you heard someone praised for being an exceptional follower? Yet, organizations such as sporting teams, corporations, administrations, or family businesses, require not only the vision and work ethic of a good leader but the willingness of the majority of us to make ourselves exceptional followers. Allowing the word to have become a degradation, unfortunately, makes it difficult for us to embrace the title. Rather, we prefer to think of ourselves as leaders, and we prefer our kids to endeavor to be the same. Why else does a team of six-year-olds have captains and assistant captains? Their peers did not choose them, the adults in the room did. The bookstore shelves are full of help instructing us on leadership skills. The following section is rather bare indeed!
Being a leader is a nice thought, and it would be great if we could all be one, but focusing on being one might be like longing for a goal without instituting a process. There is no shame in learning to be a good follower… so long as we are following the right people. In the end, perhaps this is what good leaders are.
Thanks for reading,