Leadership has always and continues to fascinate me. For decades, I've met, observed, outreached to, interviewed, photographed, video recorded, worked with, been mentored by, provided some form of training to 'leaders' in various industries, and from a myriad of cultural, religious, socio-economic backgrounds whose approach to leadership differs vastly in both form and function. What they share, most notably, is a 'title' that confirms their 'leadership' role.
There are leaders with titles who have no clue what they're doing but talk a solid talk and have mastered self-marketing and spin, those without titles who would make excellent leaders but have never been elevated, those whose humility or quiet nature or aversion to political correctness or 'playing the game' have impeded any potential leadership opportunities -- though they could make solid leaders, those who lack self-confidence or self-awareness to get to the next level i.e. leadership, those who underestimate what it takes to lead and thus lack the work ethic, ambition or both to achieve it, and the list goes on.
Throw all these experiences into a vat, boil vigorously and here's what rises to the top: True good leaders are few and far between. They aren't growing on trees.
As I've said repeatedly to anyone who will listen and believe fervently -- just because someone has a title, doesn't mean they know what they're doing.
Just think about the best of the best leaders in history. The list, depending on you who talk to, is lean: Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and many would include U.S. President Barack Obama.
As the run-up to the U.S. presidential election unfolds, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton should be preoccupied by the state of their leadership qualities. Every 'leader' should be.
What's the parenting angle here? Parents are the leaders of their children. If you have produced offspring, adopted a child, are responsible for the livelihood and well-being of a baby, youth, teenager, young adult, grown adult -- then you are their leader -- not their friend, peer or some other such concept. You can be the latter as a secondary role, but you should be their leader first.
These children come to you for guidance, support, advice, etc. As their parent, you provide insight, oversight, a helping hand, a stern warning, tough love, a sympathetic ear, honest feedback, an experienced perspective, and much more.
Is that not what a good leader is supposed to do?
Too often these days, in my opinion, parents seem to be ill-equipped, nervous about, not-inclined to, act like true leaders of their children. This is not about a dictatorship or any kind of authoritarian rule. This is about parents having the confidence in their ability to lead their children -- staying the course on their personal values and beliefs, without getting side-tracked by the cacophony of white noise 'out there' -- which includes peer pressure, keeping up with the Joneses, greed, etc.
The result is indecision, confusion, lack of confidence among parents, which in turn results in kids who disrespect authority, are entitled, spoiled, selfish, lack self-esteem, self-awareness etc.
We are all learning. Parents and children. Learning is a lifelong journey. But someone has to lead the way. It's pretty obvious who.
My personal definition of a leader is short: A person who is able to execute on a clear vision.
What it takes to achieve what is entailed in that definition are traits common among exceptional leaders:
- Ability to teach
- Desire to learn
- Strong moral compass
- Sense of humour
- Listening skills
We've all heard the notion, especially in the sports arena that 'true leaders make those around them better'. It's a romantic thought with a lot of validity.
The individual trait which defines that true leader is a daily, consistent commitment.
Wouldn't you want a boss with those traits, or better yet raise children who exemplify them?