I am a firm believer that anyone can become a leader. However, many will not put in the long and hard work to do what it takes to achieve the highest levels of what people call leadership. Leadership is not something the leader himself or herself can declare. “I am a leader” is likely to be said by someone who believes that having a position, title, or certain behavior characteristics or traits define leadership. This is almost never true. Someone is not a leader unless certain conditions are met. Most importantly – Others must freely choose to follow a leader. In fact leadership is best defined by the followers who declare “you are a leader” or “that person is a leader.” It is not for the leader himself or herself to make the declaration, but only for those who follow to define who is their leader, their mentor, their role model. In my experience if you want others to declare you to be a leader, the follows must believe you are helping them achieve a higher purpose, a recognizable goal, a better outcome, or some improved state of being in the future. A leader always moves followers toward something in the future versus continuing the status quo. And that future place is always perceived to be something better than the current state – otherwise the followers would not freely choose to move forward. The methods used by leaders (those who have been defined by others to be good leaders) are varied. There is certainly no one way to lead.
I know someone who others would call a good leader who is inspiring, motivational, energetic, outgoing, and hard-working. She is always involved with charitable causes or organizations that strive to make the world a better place, and she inspires those who follow her to want to get involved in those good works. I also know a man described as a great leader who is quiet, thoughtful, focused on serving those he leads, hard-working but in a behind the scenes way. He doesn’t take much credit for accomplishing things, yet those he leads have achieved much higher success and excellent work outcomes as a direct result of his quiet leadership. These are just two examples, and there are many variations on how a person leads. This is why I continue to believe that anyone can be a leader if they discover their best methods for helping others get the results they need to be successful. When that happens, others will freely choose to follow – knowing that they will be more successful (however they define success) by following the person who is leading.
Finally, I also believe that becoming a leader (not simply achieving a specific position or title) is a lifelong journey. As soon as a person stops striving to be a better leader they probably stop being a leader even if they do have a title or management job. In other words, perhaps being a leader is all in the pursuit of self-improvement, growth, development, and struggling to be the type of person others would choose to follow.