Leadership is not power, not even a position. It’s a personality, a character, a willingness to take action. You can be a leader by developing the leader within you.
Are we all leaders? Obviously, no. Can we all be leaders? Yes, depending on the situation and as long as there is no conflict of authority. Are leaders born or made? Both. Who are the leaders? The ones who have the willpower, the influence, and the decisiveness to take an action.
Because of determination, former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had led the Allied forces toward a victory over fascist Germany. Despite his physical disability, he is a strong-willed man who faced two difficult events in the American and world history: the crippling Great Depression of the late 1930s and the horrifying threat of dictatorial power during the World War.
Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi had influenced the peasants, farmers, and urban laborers to create a nonviolent revolt against the British colonialism. His ardor and power to move others to follow his lead becomes an inspiration for civil movement around the world.
Inspired by Gandhi’s leadership campaign and because of his firmness to fight against racial inequality, Martin Luther King had moved people to advance civil rights through nonviolent civil disobedience. He becomes an icon of both spiritual and political freedom who had spearheaded one of the largest movements in American history: the March on Washington joined by about 200,000 individuals both black and white where he delivered his immortal speech, “I Have a Dream.”
Leaders on Leadership
Leadership is defined differently by different people in different contexts. Here are the denotations and connotations from various leaders:
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States
“The greatest leaders is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States
“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” – Nelson Mandela, an African nationalist and socialist who became the President of South Africa
“Don’t follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you.” – Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell, a well-known American leadership author, speaker, and pastor
The B.I.T.E.: Developing the Leader Within You
Similar with “Take a B.I.T.E. of Motivation: A Motivator Enhancer,” I’ll be using the acronym B.I.T.E. to mean Believe, Inspire, Transform, and Empower in the context of leadership.
“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know that can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” – Sara Blakely
Most of us are afraid to lead a group. It might be because of the fear of taking a big responsibility or the lack of belief in ourselves. However, nothing will happen if no one will have the determination to take a lead and be an exemplary toward others. Needlessly to say, leadership starts within us.
The late Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on her speech about self-leadership, she has posited these questions when someone is questioning his or her capability to lead:
- What is it you want to achieve?
- What actions do you need to take to achieve this?
- What are the results of your actions?
- Is this feedback accurate?
- Can I filter the feedback?
As Defensor-Santiago had quoted from 2012 book Self Leadership by Bryant and Kazan, self-leadership means “The process by which you influence yourself to achieve your objectives. Having a developed sense of who you are, what you can do, where you are going, coupled with the ability to influence your communication, emotions, and behavior on the way to getting there.”
I believe that there are people who are born to be leaders and yet, whether we like it or not, we are still molded by our own social environment and personal choices. The decision to lead your children, your family, your business, your colleagues, your school, and your community is in your hands.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
Sometimes, we need the inspiration to take a lead but to inspire others might be your way to get inspired yourself while doing the same to others.
A study by Harvard Business Review (HBR) gives these four attributes of an inspiring leader:
- Developing inner resources: Based on the research, stress tolerance, self-regard, and optimism help leaders develop inner resources.
- Connecting with others: The survey showed that vitality, humility, and empathy help leaders connect.
- Setting the tone: What help leaders to set the tone is openness, unselfishness, and responsibility.
- Leading the team: Vision, focus, servanthood, and sponsorship are the traits mentioned to help individuals lead.
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch
After taking the first step to lead and inspire others to be better, continually develop yourself and others by being a transformational leader.
Transformational leadership is said to be a leadership theory focusing on a leader working with teams to determine the needed change, create a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and implement the change in tandem with committed members of a group. Former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt was noted as a transformational leader.
According to the Mind Tools, to be a transformational leader involves:
- Creating an inspiring vision of the future.
- Motivating and inspiring people to engage with that vision.
- Managing the delivery of the vision.
- Coaching and building a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision.
“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates
“Inspiring leaders,” as asserted in the HBR study mentioned above, “are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”
Joseph Folkman in his article “The 6 Key Secrets To Increasing Empowerment In Your Team,” gave these 6 factors on how to empower others:
1. Openness to new ideas.
2. Developing others.
3. Supportive and trusted manager.
4. Recognition, rewards, and encouragement.
5. Positive work environment.
6. Giving team members authority.
In The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Leadership, Susan Caba has summarized leadership in six basic principles, which are:
1. Knowing your values and living them every day.
2. Clearly communicating your goals and standards.
3. Being aware of your behavior style and how you interact with others.
4. Hiring great people, giving them challenging work, and then letting them do their jobs.
5. Managing change, not forcing it.
6. Creating opportunities for people to learn and practice leadership skills at every level.
Developing leaders within us might take time, but if you start to believe in your capabilities, begin to inspire others, be a transformational leader, and ignite people empowerment, you can already be the leader that you can be. Remember, you don’t need a title, a position, or a big crowd of followers to lead. You can be an inspirational leader in your family, in your church, in your school, and in your own neighborhood.
Take this final word from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“If you can’t fly, then run,
If you can’t run, then walk,
If you can’t walk, then crawl,
but whatever you do,
you have to keep moving forward.”
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