Leadership, Part III- You are born to be a leader

I used to believe that some people are born to be leaders and most people are meant to be followers. At least, that’s what I have seen around me and perhaps, in the society as a whole. However, there are two issues with this view.

First, it’s true that most people are ‘followers’. Humans are social animals and like other social animals in the wild, we have relationships and hierarchical systems in the society. This means that there will always be a leader for a group of people. There will be a leader of leaders and this is the societal system we’ve naturally adapt to as humans. In such a system, most people are not seen as ‘leaders’ but followers because there are very few leader positions in such a hierarchical system. That’s perhaps why most people don’t think they are leaders in our society, because their work title is not a manager or executive. That was what I believed before.

The second issue with this view is that most people don’t try to lead in such a system. Instead, most people will wait for a leader to ’emerge’ and then just follow. Often there is nothing wrong with this. I was one of them when I was young as I was shy and thought that I didn’t have the ‘quality’ to be an eloquent leader (that was the image of a leader in my mind at that time). My view is actually not uncommon. Let me share a story I came across in my class with you.

A leader is like a lighthouse that shows people the direction to go.

I teach a class in the university that is designed for the last year aviation students. Back a few year ago, I assigned 20 students in each group of the class and I gave each team 20 aircraft to set up and run an airline from scratch. This started with planning the network of the airline and destinations where the airline was flying to. The whole project went further into the details of rostering individual crew to man each aircraft. It’s not easy as a team project and required good communication and teamwork to do a good job.

Three weeks into the project, I had briefings with each team. One team was struggling with little progress. After the briefing, I asked one of the students in the team privately about what went wrong and how I could help. The girl said that the team leader was buy on his own stuff and didn’t have enough initiatives to kick off the project. Hmmm…. not uncommon.

So, I asked:”What have other team members done about this? What have you done then?” She replied:”Not much. We are waiting for the leader to tell us what to do.” That was a big issue, I told the girl, because the project had been delayed for two weeks. I asked the girl to report back to me on the 4th week of the project. If things hadn’t improved, then I would intervene.

Planning an airline from scratch is indeed a hard mathematical problem.

The situation hadn’t improved by week 4, so I stepped in as the ‘boss’ and changed the leadership team. I asked the girl to lead the team. She was not sure and told me after the class: “I haven’t led such a big team before. I’m not sure whether I could do it.” So, I coached her through the semester on leadership and decision making.

In fact, the most essential element in my coaching to the young lady was to help her bringer her ‘inner leadership’ out of herself. She had ideas and knew how to do the job, but she thought leadership was a quality that was naturally born by some people (and not her!). I told her:”No sweetie, you are born to be a leader. You just need to get the right people for the right jobs, and ensure that ideas from the team are executed as planned and in time for project delivery.

I do agree that we all need to learn something to become a great leader. However, I don’t believe that leaders are born to be leaders. In fact, you are born to be a leader.

You gotta believe you are born to be a leader and yes, you can!

In our daily lives, you may be the leader of your family. You make the decision as what type of car to buy, where to live and even what to eat. These decisions may seem simple for most of us. In fact, it’s not as simple as it looks. Where to live in your town depends on your financial situation, transport accessibility and job availability. These factors all affect the cost of living and life quality, so where we choose to live, indeed is a difficult decision to make.

As a leader of your family, you make decisions and you also compromise because of job locations, because of kid’s education and many of us also compromise on our life styles. I wanna live close to beaches, but that would be too far from my work. You can see that as a leader of your family, you make difficult decisions every day! You are already a leader.

If you expand that to your workplace, then you do similar decisions but on different scales. This is the same for a CEO of a big company and the same for the president of a country. The quality of the leadership is almost the same from the ‘household leader’, to managers, executives, CEOs and even the president. Scales could be different but the quality of leadership is similar.

Turn yourself into a star; yes, you can!

You gotta believe that you are born to be a leader. While you expand your life and career, you would bring your inner leadership out of yourself and your family and go from there. Not everyone could become a CEO of a large public company or a president of a country. However, this doesn’t mean that you are not a leader.

If you lead your family well, then you will create a number of good leaders (your kids! ^_^). They will then go on and lead their own families and lead the society in the future. If you are only the leader of your household and if you do a good job, then you are already a successful leader and contributing greatly to the society. You are naturally born as a leader; perhaps you didn’t know that before?

Dr. C. Richard Wu @ REEAConsulting.com

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