Your perception of what or who a leader is will likely be different than the next person you talk to about leadership. That’s okay. A leader is not always recognizable, is not always trained as a leader, and may not even be aware they are a leader. In the next page or so I will attempt to show how you are likely already a leader and have the potential to be a good one.
You have probably read or heard that seventy-five percent of our past presidents in the United States were oldest or only children meaning they probably grew up in a leadership role in their families or origin. We do this to first born’s and only children meaning we typically create high expectations for these children. Now, understanding the middle and youngest children are now typically raised with the same expectations as the oldest or only child, your question might be; “How do I become a leader when they have a huge head start”? We’ll get to that in a moment. If you are blessed to be an only or oldest son or daughter you can still fine tune your leadership skills. Remember, in birth orders we look at the same sex children for their birth order so exclude the opposite sex births in multi-child homes. For the rest of us it is easier than you might expect to lead well and as mentioned you may already be a leader and not know it.
In my home, I don’t always feel like a leader but I am one. I have a wife and adult step-son who both like to ‘lead’ at times. I have learned enough to step back if I do not possess the better knowledge or skills in that area. If they fail at something they’re trying I’ve also learned it doesn’t help to remind them of their failure unless they attempt the same folly later on. As I’ve grown older I make a point to ask one of them to handle a task where even a few years ago I might have forged ahead unsure of the outcome or I was sure of a mediocre outcome– but hey, I was going to try to do my best! The better part of valor may be knowing when to step aside and ask or allow someone else to do ‘it’, whatever it is .
Your birth order; whether or not you are an extrovert or introvert, thinker or feeler, makes little difference when measuring your ongoing success as a leader. You are a leader by the way if you are in a relationship with one other person. Yes, I get it, we may not feel like we are ‘in charge’ in our house since another person there has more of a dominant personality (It may be your child, yikes!). Stop here and ask yourself; are they good at everything? No. Are you? No. Therefore, whatever you are better at doing in your home makes you the leader in that area. Maybe it’s finances, making quick decisions, making slow decisions (yes, this can be an attribute of a leader), understanding how people think, understanding how people feel, maybe being a more involved parent, or even repairing things can make you the leader in that area in your home.
So, now that you realize you are already likely a leader at some level maybe it’s time to broaden your horizons? Historically we find those in leadership were given much advice in becoming better leaders since volumes of books have been written on the subject. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen on character and leadership comes from fiction writer, Robert Heinlein in his novel “Time Enough for Love”. Heinlein starts by saying, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog…etc.” then continues saying, “…set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders…fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” The fact that he includes both taking and giving orders speaks to one of the great attributes of a leader to me, being able to admit you don’t know it all. You will be challenged by those around you, and that’s a good thing. You will also be challenged by those above you; that’s a really good thing. A good leader learns. It doesn’t matter who teaches you as long as you learn and do not reject the next valuable lesson even if it comes from a two year old child.
If you crave to be a great leader you will likely hit road blocks time and time again. If however, you strive to be a great person your destiny will find you in time. No one is a born leader but some definitely have a leg up on others seemingly from the start. Perseverance, doing the right thing even when no one is watching all count toward your character and that is what people see every day – your significant other, your co-workers, clients, family, everyone who meets you– will see your true character sooner or later so why not make it a character they would want to emulate?
Chuck “Papa” Hill, M.A., LLPC
About me: I unfortunately don’t make it to as many FBET events as I used to however my passion for expeditions and those who make them is still there. My first event with FBET was probably 1996 – an outdoor expo. Currently, as a Mental Health Specialist I’ve spent the last four years working on a research grant through the U.S.D.A, University of Michigan, and Michigan State University studying obesity in preschoolers and their parents. My greater work in the preschool population affects over 800 preschooler’s every year, their parents, and the teaching staff, in four counties.
I came out of Marriage and Family counseling full time to take this position all those years ago. I continue to counsel part-time at Community Hope Christian Counseling and Mental Health Center in Greenville, MI. I am a current member of the Montcalm County Planning Commission; volunteer in the Boy Scouts of America and maintain my licensure as an insurance agent.