Leadership expert John Maxwell said, “a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” When we are given the responsibility to lead others there’s a special calling on our lives. I have learned that oftentimes it is through our mistakes, and the times we fall, that we actually grow the most. What we may often see as a stumbling block; in our life, or in our career, or even in our relationships, can really be positioned as a stepping-stone to something bigger and better. It is during these times that we learn what we are truly made of.
The question has often been posed: are leaders born or made? Most theorists believe that leaders are made. If this is true, all of us have the potential to be a leader. I believe that people become leaders based on exposure, experience and education. We are all made up of a combination of what we’ve been exposed to in life, what we’ve experienced, and what we make the effort to learn. Leaders are constantly stretching their boundaries and they are always in a mode of learning as much as they can and perfecting their craft in their field of operation. Ultimately, if we are going to know the way, go the way and show others the way, we must be on top of our game.
Over the years, my personal experience has shown me that true leaders also know how to bring out the best in the people around them. Queen Elizabeth II said, “some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.” It is the job of a good leader to help make those in his or her care the best they can be, even if we have to take less credit for something in order to build up the self esteem and confidence of others. Real leadership is not necessarily a destination, but rather the journey (the road) we travel day to day, in spite of the stumbling blocks that are placed in our way, to not only be our best, but to bring out the best in others.
When I think back on my life and I look at the people I would consider good leaders (whether they are famous or people from my own community), I noticed they all have some similar traits. They are often seasoned and have been through a few things in life; they’ve weathered storms; they’ve learned from their mistakes; they care about others; they continue to try to be their best self; their roots go deep and they are anchored. Leaders know how to turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones that can be lessons for those who come behind them. They also learn how to make the best of any situation.
We are in a time when people are longing for and looking for leaders. I’ve spoken to so many people who are feeling lost, lonely, discouraged, and even defeated. This is when we must encourage people not to give up and to dig deep to find their best self. Generations before us have experienced trials and tribulations and lived in times where they, too, felt defeated but they didn’t give up. As my grandmother would say, “this too shall pass, but we can’t stand still or accept defeat.” We must find the leader that exists inside of us and rise to the calling on our lives.
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