I read a lot of books and articles about leadership. Topics that try to define leadership, teach leadership, show leadership, and give opinions about leadership. Sadly, I think that the word has been way too overused and now has lost a lot of its true meaning and purpose. Today, every boss, entrepreneur, pastor, teacher, police officer, and politician gets bestowed with the title “leader.” Yet, these occupations are not synonymous with the word leader. In fact, I would argue that you can be very proficient and well-respected in any of these professions and still not be a leader.
Being a leader is not something that comes with a job title, and it is not even something that you become when you’re very good at your job. Leadership has nothing to do with your occupation. True leadership is about your lifestyle. A leader is someone who can move people, resources, and ideas forward in order to create something new or make something better. Every leader has one thing in common: change. Leadership and the status quo simply don’t mix.
But being a leader is about a lot more than just helping to move the world forward. The thing that sets leaders apart from other people, even other movers and shakers, is that leaders do it for the people. Their passion and desire is born from a heart for people. Others may accomplish great things in their lives, make global impacts, even change the world as we know it, but this still does not make them a leader. Leaders, on the other hand, may only be known by the people that they affect, but that is the difference. Leaders seek change that empowers and uplifts others. Most leaders go unnoticed by the world at large. They don’t head up a big corporation, mega church, or become President of the United States.
Sure, some do, but most simply live out their lives worrying about the person in front of them at the moment. Yes, they are visionaries in their own right, and have an uncanny ability to see the big picture. However, they don’t use these skills for their own personal glory, or protection, or fame, or power. Instead of setting themselves apart, they roll up their sleeves and get to work right beside the people they lead.
Today, we call the loudest, most strong-willed and large-egoed people leaders. We see them smash through barriers and plow over obstacles, confusing their blind ambition with leadership. OK, so they made a big impact, but look at the debris behind them. How many broken people did it take for them to get to where they are?
Real leaders have a much softer touch. They understand that true, lasting, and honorable change comes from building up, not tearing down. Yes, sometimes they must reconstruct what is broken, but when you look behind them, instead of debris, you will see people standing stronger and taller than ever before. Leadership is about caring for, empowering, and changing people, nothing more, and definitely nothing less.