I was flipping through the channels on t.v. and came across an episode of “Last Man Standing.” The Hector Elizondo character was speaking to a young woman, instructing her on the main difference between leaders and followers. He said that followers care about what other people think, but leaders don’t.
I don’t think he meant that leaders don’t care about people. If he had chosen to clarify, he might have started by explaining that what people think of as good or desired can change on a whim. This happens because the group mind is centered on emotion and sensation. He might then have explained that caring what people think can lead an individual to act on the flighty moods of others. To be effective, leaders must act on a firm foundation of values and principles. It’s not that they don’t care; they can’t care.
I have often been called to positions of leadership. However I’ve been avoiding those opportunities for the last couple of years. I have been behaving like a follower. I have been doing (or not doing) things because of my fear of others’ reactions. Take this blog for example. I have put off blogging for years because of my fear. Criticism has played a small part in that, but mostly I have avoided leadership because of control issues.
My past experiences have taught me that most people want their leaders to micro-manage them. For me, micro-managing isn’t an acceptable leadership style. It’s control, plain and simple. It’s amazing how adept people can be in manipulating that control from others. That manipulation to have me control others makes me sick. Physically sick. I have left positions of leadership because of it, and have been avoiding leadership ever since.
A series of personal difficulties have happened since turning down leadership positions. And now I must consider that maybe I’m supposed to be a leader. Maybe I’ve been running from my purpose the way Jonah ran from God. Could my personal difficulties just be my version of the whale? If so, how do I get back on track? And how am I meant to be leader, when I hate being a leader?
I spent a lot of time thinking about these things and realized that if I am meant to be a leader, it must be a positive thing, not some abhorrent un-godly endeavor. There has to be a way to lead that won’t make me sick.
I tossed out what experience has taught me about leadership so I could see things with a fresh, eternal perspective. The gospel and Holy Ghost are great teachers and this is what I came up with.
- Leaders teach rather than control. Leaders mentor and encourage others to become their best selves. A true leader cannot do everything and knows that. Every one has unique strengths and abilities. A leader honors and utilizes the strengths of others, because their job is to help make better people, not accomplish some quantifiable task.
- Leaders challenge the status quo and seek knew ways of thinking and doing. People generally do things just because that’s the way they have always been done. They don’t see the problems inherent in systems or processes, and thus remain stuck without external guidance and encouragement. Leaders offer us new ways of seeing and doing things and help us feel safe enough to change.
- Leadership is multi-directional. We can be leaders to those “above” us, as well as those “below” us by the example we set.
- Leaders don’t need designated followers. Leadership is a way of being, rather than a function.
Leadership is an ability that we can, and should, each acquire. Whether I ever get another opportunity to “lead others,” I can still accept my purpose and develop this in myself. I can do this by figuring out problems inherent in the status quo and offering up solutions. I can do this by realizing that my leaders may have bought in to the belief of leadership=control, and that I can help teach them another way, rather than throw up my hands in futility. I can teach and nurture change in my leaders instead of enduring/escaping their unrighteous control.
And most of all, I can do this by speaking my truth and starting my blog. I’ve had a lot of time to pay attention. Being barren and having no children to take care of will do that for a person. I’ve witnessed so many people doing things the way they have always been done, when there could be a better way. Sharing that is how I choose to lead.