Why You Should Be a Leader

By Williams, Art | The Saturday Evening Post, January-February 1984 | Go to article overview

Why You Should Be a Leader


Williams, Art, The Saturday Evening Post


If you've paused to see what this article's about, read on. You've already proved that deep down you think you have leadership potential. And you do.

Everyone, regardless of his personal or business status, has an influence in other people's lives. How great your influence will be is entirely up to you.

I want to encourage you to think about that responsibility. A decision you make--or do not make--today could mean the difference in the direction of your life and the lives of a lot of other people. You can decide to stand back and let relationships go as they will--or you can decide to be a leader.

Leadership is one of the most misunderstood concepts in our society. I've found that most people believe that leaders are born, not made. Nothing could be further from the truth. Much of the reason for confusion is that, in our modern-day society, we've come to equate leadership with management--another, and totally different, concept.

Management is a science and can be taught right out of a textbook. Leadership is an art. It can be learned and developed, but only through action--in other words, the hard way.

The most vivid example of the difference between managers and leaders came from a gutsy U.S. naval officer interviewed recently on the "60 Minutes" TV show. "Managers manage things," she asserted, "leaders lead people." That, in a nutshell, is what is so important about the concept of leadership--people.

People need leaders today more than ever before--when there seem to be fewer and fewer leaders around. There's a real storage of people to admire, to be inspired by and to emulate.

Now you're probably asking, "Me? I'm not a business tycoon. I don't have any opportunity to be a leader." But you're wrong. You don't have to hold a high position to be an effective leader.

Maybe you're not even involved in business. There's a vast world beyond the business community that includes a very large group of people. You may be involved in your neighborhood or community, you may coach a little-league team, be a PTA leader or a scoutmaster, teach Sunday School or lead a civic group.

One of the most obvious, and the most overlooked, examples of how you can provide critically needed leadership is in the home. Many parents today employ a surprising "hands off" policy with their children. In an attempt to be "modern" parents, they almost seem to be by-standers in their children's lives. It's so easy to be passive and take the path of least resistance. But parents who forgo the opportunity to help children learn lifelong values and attitudes also lose a rich opportunity to lead.

Leaders are, above all, examples, and maybe people just don't see themselves as potential examples for others.

That's where we make two basic mistakes. We tend to think that, to be leaders, we must also be saints. And we think we must dedicate ourselves to a task involving thousands of people. In truth, leaders are desperately needed in every walk of life, at every level of society--in every individual household. And the qualities that make a leader aren't charisma or power or wealth or genius.

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