What Makes a Leader?

Check out my first post on this topic, What Is Leadership?

I’m going to start off with a statement that will likely be taken as controversial but is mostly a disclaimer: I believe anyone can be a leader. Leadership is like any other skill or talent; it can be developed and made better and learned over time. However, just like any other talent, there are people who have a greater inclination to leadership. But as Kevin Durant’s high school basketball coach Tim Notke said: “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work.”

Now with that out of the way, I must say another controversial statement: being good at what you do does not make you a leader. No amount of knowledge about your task can make you a good leader, but only practicing good leadership with yourself, your peers, your family, and your superiors. Leadership is much more than just being the best at what you do. Don’t get me wrong, that is part of the equation, but it doesn’t end there. Leadership is all about people. You can be the best salesman, speaker, presenter, manufacturer, manager on your floor and still not be a leader.

So what makes a leader then? Followers. If you don’t have anyone following you, how are you a leader? Now, of course this doesn’t mean that you have people physically following you everywhere you go like some great philosopher of old, but it does mean that you have someone looking up to you; it means having someone that you work with regularly to help them become a better them.

As leaders, we are not supposed to “fix” people, but we are supposed to direct, encourage, challenge, and lead them to where they need to go. It is our jobs to point out where someone (me, you, the organization) is, explain that there is more than what’s here, and then paint the picture of what the other side looks like.

Do you have anyone following you? If not, what can you do differently to fulfill your leadership potential?

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