I was in my very first play when I was eight years old. My director was Bud Cummings. Bud worked tirelessly with us less professional actors and certainly, young actors like myself, to teach us about team work in the theater and how to put the show ahead of our own personal interest. This was my first experience taking direction from an adult other than my parents. He earned my respect immediately because he knew his subject matter and because he respected me. The impact this experience had on me has carried me through my life and I have been able to take that lesson to develop my own leadership style. I had the unique opportunity to see Bud this last weekend. He is now 86 years old and I shared with him the impact he had on me and thanked him. He was touched and surprised at the same time.
Leadership can be defined as an act of influencing others that alters paths and drives the completion of a task or achievement of a goal. Typically, leaders are chosen or step up to take on this mantle because they are positive influencers. However, I have had the not so good fortune of having to follow the direction of leaders that eventually became negative influencers; I have learned from these individuals, as well. I learned how not to treat others and how not to work on a project as a team. In other words, how not to lead.
The many influences on my life include other directors, employers, as well as co-workers. Those with the greatest impact were teachers and showed respect for me and my abilities. This respect led to trust that task accomplishment and goal achievement were possible. These individuals pushed me to be the best I could possibly be. They taught me by their example and by taking the time to lead me through different work assignments and/or times of crisis. The ultimate leaders, though, would have to be my parents. I never heard my father say a bad word about anyone. He was energetic and influential which led to his success as a salesman his whole life. My mother is the hardest worker I know; that alone will cause you to follow. Her example of tenacity and courage is truly the ideal.
The ideal leader is selfless, holds wisdom which is beyond surface knowledge, has experience, is enthusiastic, respectful, inquisitive, open-minded, recognizes when he is wrong and quickly responds to effectively change, and has a vision of where he is leading. He does not blindly direct; there is purpose and intent behind his direction. Leaders must remain humble - this reminds them that they, too, are followers.
The challenges that leaders of today and tomorrow may face are many; there are a few that stand out. Due to the rapid changes in technology, a leader will need to be flexible and willing to always be learning and redefining their own personal style. Alongside these technological advances, leaders will experience reduced face time with followers. They will be leading by mobile device or social media. This may affect project commitment and leader influence. It falls upon the leader to make sure that commitment stays true and that followers become personally invested in projects, co-workers, vision, company and in themselves, as leaders. Losing sight of the vision will become easy with the distractions we face in business today. Leaders will need to stand strong in their vision, thereby impacting culture and follower drive.
"You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too." ~ Sam Rayburn
I agree with you Rayanne, I do not believe leadership can be taught. I believe there are a few who can be taught, kicking and screaming, some rudimentary skills but to actually molt into one full time is a different matter. I have no idea who said it:
"Tigers don't change their stripes."