It certainly isn’t gained by election or appointment. Having position, title, rank, or degree doesn’t qualify anyone to lead other people. And the ability doesn’t come automatically from age or experience, either.
No, it would be accurate to say that no one can be given the right to lead. The right to lead can only be EARNED. And that takes time.
The Kind of Leader Others Want to Follow
The key to becoming an effective leader is not to focus on making other people follow, but on making ourselves the kind of people they want to follow. We must become someone others can trust to take them where they want to go.
As we prepare ourselves to become better leaders, use the following guidelines to help grow:
1. Let Go of Our Ego
The truly great leaders are not in leadership for personal gain. They lead in order to serve other people. Perhaps that is why Lawrence D. Bell remarked, “Show me a man who cannot bother to do little things, and I’ll show you a man who cannot be trusted to do big things.
2. Become a Good Follower First
Rare is the effective leader who didn’t learn to become a good follower first. That’s why a leadership institution such as United States Military Academy teaches its officers to become effective followers first – and why West Point has produced more leaders than the Harvard Business School.
3. Build Positive Relationship
Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. That mean it is by nature relational. Today’s generation of leaders seem particularly aware of this because title and position mean so little to them. They know intuitively that people go along with people they get along with.
4. Work with Excellence
No one respects and follows mediocrity. Leaders who earn the right to lead give their all to what they do. They bring into play not only their skills and talents, but also great passion and hard work. They perform on the highest level of which they are capable.
5. Rely on Discipline, Not Emotion
Leadership is often easy during the good times. It’s when everything seems to be against us when we’re out of energy, and we don’t want to lead – that we earn our place as leader. During every season of life, leaders face crucial moments when they must choose between gearing up or giving up. To make it through those times, rely on the rock of discipline, not the shifting sand of emotion.
6. Make Adding Value Our Goal
When we look at the leaders whose names are revered long after they have finished leading, we find that they were men and women who helped people to live better lives and reach their potential. That is the highest calling of leadership – and its highest value.
7. Give Our Power Away
One of the ironies of leadership is that we become better leaders by sharing whatever power we have, not by saving it all for ourselves. We’re meant to be a river, not a reservoir. If we use our power to empower others, our leadership will extend far beyond our grasp.
In summary, because of the courage leaders found and the character they displayed, other people recognized their admirable qualities and felt compelled to follow them. That’s why they earned the right to lead.