Few People Are Leaders

Leadership requires a desire for responsibility.

It requires high standards.

It requires a dissatisfaction with the here-and-now, and a constant striving for a better-future.

It requires a high-tolerance for stress.

It requires passion.

It requires foresight and a willingness-if not an innate analytical ability-to look for the invisible meanings and root causes behind the concrete and visible.

It requires a tolerance-for-ambiguity, but a paradoxical antipathy to it.

It requires the courage to take chances, to make “bets” that a certain course of action will work, and to stand tall in the face of adversity.

It requires a sense of urgency, yet the patience to wait for the tide to shift.

It requires (if it is to sustain itself) a high-degree of humility that “I don’t know it all” and a desire to learn more, always.

It requires the ability to understand and manage complexity, and the higher you go in organizations, the more complex the factors.

It requires a “feel” for people, a deep compassion for their humanness, but the ability to exert “tough love” to serve the greatest good of the group.

Few people are willing to step into the role of Leader. They do not have these attributes. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t valuable. The world needs more followers than it does leaders.

In our democratic republic we have a freedoms that force responsibility : Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Dissent. That means that everyone is a critic (as they should be). Of leaders. And their own Leader in particular.

President Teddy Roosevelt said:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

In every civilized democracy, being a critic, a side-line-quarterback is not only entertainment, but it is practically a birthright. And when things aren’t going so well, there tends to be a “pile on” mentality, a ganging-up to criticize the Leader.  Seeing this, even among those who might desire some of the “fruits” that come from leadership, many refuse to “step up” to the role of a Leader.  The hassles of being publicly pilloried have kept many good men and women from stepping into a leadership role.

Of those who do step into the role of Leader, a few are mature enough, or intelligent enough to know what it is like to be striving at the top.  So they work to help their own Leaders be successful.

Exhibiting good followership is the sign of a good leader.

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