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On Being a Leader, Part 1

May 8, 2012

Some people are natural leaders. Some people become leaders out of necessity or circumstance.

I’m a little of both.

Leadership can be overwhelming

I was born into a large family, or rather, I was born. The large family followed. And with every new addition a little more responsibility, intentionally or unintentionally, was added to me. Every new member meant another person to watch out for, care for , nurture and love. Was I born to be a leader? Probably. Did I embrace that calling from early on? No, of course not. I waited until it was dumped on me and I couldn’t breathe under the weight of it and I realized that my lack of acceptance of my God given responsibility wasn’t just hurting me, it was hurting everyone around me. Then I figured if I didn’t start taking responsibility for my lack of actions, I was going to lose the respect of everyone that was looking up to me. Not to mention my own self respect.

I don’t like all the responsibility on my shoulders because, let’s face it, I am human and so often I fail. And being a leader means that I can’t just sweep my failures under the rug and hope no one notices.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a good (although reluctant) leader. I am still learning and I do not by any means have a formula for excellent leadership. I make mistakes ALL THE TIME and I think part of being a good leader is learning how to learn from our mistakes. On the other hand, I so desperately need to be needed and I need to know that my family is in the best hands possible. So I try to keep them in mine. 🙂  My family (and consequently sometimes others) often look to me for direction and leadership. They follow my example. So if I fail I don’t just fail me. I fail them too. This realization can lead to one of two things. Either I will never try to lead again, or I will make sure that whatever I lead toward is in the right direction, along the right path, and that the people behind me will have the best possible journey.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other” -John F. Kennedy 

Like I said, I’m no expert, all I have is what I’ve learned from my mistakes. Over the next few days (weeks?) I’m going to be publishing a series on leadership. The things I’ve learned, the things I still need to learn, the things I’ve observed in good leaders… I’m not really sure what all, because I’m still formulating my thoughts on the subject and I definitely don’t have it all yet!  If anything, this exercise in writing is for my benefit, but I hope you all can pick up some things as well.  The truth is we are ALL leaders in one situation or another. I’d love to hear any thoughts any of you have, too!

1. A leader should never ask anyone to do something he/she is not willing to do themselves.

One thing I’ve learned about life: There is ALWAYS plenty of work to be done. Part of being an effective leader is delegation, and making sure the best people are on the jobs that they will be best at. I’m a huge advocate of this and delegation is a very important part of team management. But, I’m talking about dirty jobs here. You know the ones. The ones NO ONE wants to do, regardless of whether they are good at them or not. No one wants to take out the trash. No one wants to do the minute, detail work, the work that will take the longest, or create the most headache. No one wants to be the one to address the sensitive subjects, or be the focal person for the tense situations, no one wants to wade into the middle of all the drama and fish out the truth and soothe all the hurt feelings and give the tough love (more on this later). But, the truth is: Someone Has To Do It. It may as well be me.

Here’s my rule of thumb: If I don’t want to do it, I probably should be doing it. This doesn’t mean that a good leader takes control of every situation and manipulates everything to go their way. No. It means that a good leader develops a willing attitude and a good sense of work ethic. It means that a good leader will take on the dirty jobs with a cheerful attitude. And if not cheerful, (obviously this is not always possible 🙂 ) at least not grouchy and resentful. If there are dirty, or unpopular jobs to be done, a good leader should always volunteer for them, or at the least volunteer to help and make the job as pain free as possible.

Sometimes we all have to go into the fire and fight, I guarantee that the first person in is the one that will gain themselves the most respect in the eyes of the ones after them. They are the best kinds of leaders because they are the ones that everyone else WANTS to follow. They command respect by deserving respect.

To be continued…. 

Please comment! I’m really interested to know other peoples thoughts on this subject!

Some discussion starters:

Are you a leader? Do you want to be a leader? 

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Barb permalink
    May 11, 2012 2:50 pm

    Rebecca,
    Excellent topic and I’m looking forward to the next.

    Being a parent this is a topic that comes up a lot with children. Should you be a “leader” or a “follower”? I have one child, a boy, totally opposite from your wonderful family. Leadership has been an on going ‘issue’ (I don’t now how else to put that) in our family. With my son being the only child there is really no one for him to “lead” here at home. We noticed early on that he was becoming a follower at school and that wasn’t always a good thing. We have spent a lot of time over the past years teaching him and enouraging him to be a leader. He is a good person, loving, caring, funny and the list goes on. With being a leader he can pass those things onto others.
    I love reading about leadership and what others think about it. I have passed some of your words onto to my son (he is 16 now so I try to do this through casual conversation so that he doesn’t feel like he is being preached at). I do look forward to your next “Leadership” blog post. 🙂
    Oh, and before I forget… I enjoy reading your all you posts. Your pictures are beautiful and you are a beautiful person inside and out.
    Keep them coming!!!

    Barb Cullen

    • Rebecca permalink*
      May 12, 2012 1:28 pm

      Barb, thank you so much for your kind comments! I’m certainly no expert on leadership, all I have is mistakes! I just try to learn from them. 🙂 I really appreciate your comment! Thank you so much!

Trackbacks

  1. Leadership, Part 2 « The Shadowlands
  2. Leadership, Part 3 « The Shadowlands
  3. Leadership, part 4 « The Shadowlands

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