March 11, 2015
How many of you out there reading this piece have played "Follow the Leader"?
Ahem...no, I don't mean the song by The Soca Boys.
I mean the actual game "Follow the Leader". Come on, I'm sure most of you who have ever been invited to a fourth birthday party has probably played this game in between the delightful "Duck Duck Goose" and the sometimes frightening "Pin The Tail on the Donkey".
Everyone knows how the game is played. One person is chosen to be the leader, and the rest of the gang follow along behind him/her doing whatever he/she says. If the leader walks, the followers walk behind. If the leader hops on one foot, the followers hop right along with them. If the leader crawls on the floor and pretends they're a caterpillar, you best put on your best caterpillar impersonation. And if the leader throws a fit because someone isn't following them...well, you can pretty much tell the leader where to go.
You see, I think that when it comes to being a leader, you have to do more than come up with a task and expect others to blindly follow behind you. Otherwise, you become a cult leader, and well...we all know what happens to most of those.
No, I believe that in order to be considered a true leader, you have to prove that you have leadership qualities. And believe it or not, I do not consider being able to bark orders and make people do things for you is true leadership.
Rather, it all has to do with setting a good example towards others.
To be perfectly honest, I see a lot of people who claim to be the very definition of a leader. They work hard for success, they have a very strong personality, and they don't let anybody stand in their way to getting what they want. Now, these are all very good characteristics to have in the quest for leadership, and certainly each of these points are important in showing true leadership.
But here's what I've learned. It's only a small piece of the pie. Not even that. In my opinion, it's not even worth the cherries that you put inside of the pie crust.
You see, a good leader leads by example, and I believe that in order to take on a leadership position, you have to be willing to listen to your team and to support them every step of the way.
And I believe that this applies to school, work, home...basically any place where you are alive and breathing.
What do I mean by leading by example? Well...
The first point I want to make is that I believe that if you want a successful team, you have to make everyone feel as though they are a part of the team. No exclusions. No doing extra favours for one person while blatantly ignoring someone else. I think a good leader understands each person's strengths and weaknesses and works around them to see how each person can fit in, and works with them to become more skilled in other areas.
A person who excludes people because they aren't sure of what they are doing, act disinterested in helping other people succeed, and who freezes people out because they simply don't know how to work with them is NOT a leader.
I also believe that to show true leadership, you have to be willing to expand your horizons and tackle things that may be out of your comfort zone. Whether it is taking on more responsibilities at home, doing new things at work, or hanging out with new people, I think any and all of these could be considered showing leadership.
I think another important quality when it comes to leadership is being able to do the things that everyone else on your team is expected to do and essentially practicing what you are preaching. Again, this comes down to leading by example.
For instance, if you expect members of your team to do certain things, you'd better be able to do them yourself, whether it be doing choreography for a major Broadway production, making sure that you know how all the equipment works in a factory, or even just following the rules of the school or workplace. I mean, if the rules state that you are not allowed to have a cell phone turned on in the hallway of a high school, but teachers are allowed to text on their phones in plain sight completely disregarding the rules, how do you think everyone else is going to feel?
I'm also not a huge fan of "double standards", where rules apply to only some of the population, while everyone else can get away with breaking them. Maybe I'm a little bit old-fashioned in my thinking, but my general belief is, if rules are enforced, then they are there for a reason. And I think that if you are in a leadership position, be it as a principal, a business owner, or Premier of Ontario, you should do your best to adhere - and enforce - these rules to eliminate double standards.
If they can't...to me, they aren't leaders. Simple as that.
Truth be told, I really don't consider myself to be a leader in some aspects of life. Believe me, there are times in which I have openly questioned what I have been doing, and whether I get through to people. But you know, I think that being a true leader is being unafraid to be yourself, and not being coerced to change things about you in order to impress other people.