Many people take the initiative to become leaders of something; but, is their “will” or “desire” to lead enough to qualify them as a “leader”? The answer is NO!
It is true that those people with the will or desire to lead others possess some attributes that are characteristic of leaders. Those characteristics are mainly extroversion, initiative and motivation/passion to lead. Usually those individuals know how to build their image, and present themselves as leaders. And they succeed! Others tend to see them as natural-born leaders and they readily trust themselves to those persons.
However, those attributes are not enough for being a good leader. A good leader is not someone that likes giving orders. To the contrary, a leader is someone who humbly observes, listens, and gives directions whenever needed. A true leader is at the front line of getting the job done, together with his followers.
If you want to lead people, you first need to understand them. It takes years of personal development through studying and observing before you can say “I know humans”. “Knowing humans”, understanding them, is a process through which you reach a point of awareness. The strongest asset of a leader is that of empathy; being able to feel what your people feel, their difficulties and their ambitions. You then have to be willing to support them to fulfil their goals and overcome their obstacles.
A true leader does not ask for support; he gives support. A true leader does not judge others for their mistakes; instead, he tries to help others correct them. A true leader wants to serve, rather than to be served. A true leader is someone who has developed a conscious awareness of all behavior; his behavior and the behavior of others. A true leader will suppress any instinctive selfish drive or motivation and will never be an egoist or narcissist. The true leader will tread in deep waters to save his followers, to cover their mistakes, and to protect them from harm.
So next time you see a person forced to take the lead in any situation; apart from his respective technical skills, do not automatically assume that he is a good leader. If you are that person, the one forced to take the lead; pause and consider if you possess all the characteristics you need to be a true leader. Great leadership is a choice, so opt to be a great leader. The rest are just people who yearn to command not for the sake of others, but to instead attract attention to themselves.
Antonis Gavalas, MSc
*My special thanks go to my cousin Irene Clevenger for proofreading!