This article goes out to all of those people who wish to be leaders. Probably everyone is going to say, “That’s ME…I want to be a leader, to have everyone look up to me, to be important, to be able to tell other people what they should do and to have others be envious of my position. Yep…I want to be a leader. How can I do that?”

To begin with, many people get leadership and politics mixed up. Being a leader is much different than being a politician. If you want all those things described in the first paragraph, I suggest you try politics. But if you want to be a leader, it is going to be a long haul… and it won’t be easy. Lots of people say they ” want to be a leader,” but there are only a choice few who actually achieve this very special title.

We often think we can read a book and it will give us all the answers. Not true!!! We can learn some “concepts” about what it takes to be a leader, but every situation is different and the true leader must be able to take the concepts and “apply” them to the specific situation at hand. Therein lies the secret: “Can you take what you know and apply it to whatever circumstances happen.” (As you can see, real leaders have to be very flexible.)

The easiest part about “leading” is getting the job. Whether it’s a drill team captain, drum major, pom-pom captain, band president, or whatever… the election or appointment carries with it a lot of excitement and roaring congratulations for the victory. Then, the trouble starts! First of all, you are confronted with people who thought they should have received the position and didn’t… then you have all of their friends to contend with. Soon your own friends may begin to pull away and resent the position of authority you have attained. Are you prepared to handle this kind of damaging jealousy in your life? The “glory” will certainly not offset the hurt. Here is your first chance to show that you’re a leader. Move forward knowing this is part of what every leader experiences. Chin-up…Move forward!!

Next…this “assigned authority” will diminish in effectiveness. You may delegate some things to be done only to find they were never carried through as per your orders. When you question the person about the lack of follow-through, you might well be told in no uncertain terms what you can do with your position, your authority, and your stupid assignment! HAVING A TITLE DOESN’T MAKE YOU A LEADER. With your hallowed title and a quarter, you can’t buy a Coke!!!! Your job is “to lead,” not to be a dictator of unquestioned power. What you may find happening is “a sense of feeling alone.” It may seem that nobody understands your predicament and what you are going through. Talking to people about the situation won’t make any difference…and it will be so tempting just to “cash it in.” Let someone else do all this leadership stuff!!

There is no question that the position of leader has been over-glamorized to the point of non-reality. Our society has given the impression that leaders are given special privileges, are exempt from many menial tasks, and are constantly in the spotlight of fame and fortune. Nothing could be further from the truth! Leadership involves “giving.” It is about doing for others…it is based on making “we-us” more important than “I-me”…it is about wanting to be excellent regardless of the price.

Although there are no “carved in stone” rules about leadership, there are some concepts which seem to be common to all people who succeed at this task of helping others through their efforts. (Which ultimately improves the life of the leader.) For those people who truly want to take on this job, here are ten thoughts about the attributes of leaders, whether they are leading a country or a squad of four people in their marching band.

  1. Real leaders are also doers. Not only do they help direct the efforts of others, but they are willing to “get their own hands dirty.” These are the people who come in early and stay late, and they can always seem to find “one more thing to do” to make it better for the whole group. They lead by example!!!
  2. Real leaders always have time for others. Although they may have an extraordinarily busy schedule, they can always find time to squeeze in one more responsibility to “help out ” the group or a friend. They display a sense of “anti-selfishness” which is without fanfare. They care!!!
  3. Real leaders are quick to identify mistakes, but they spend little time talking about them; rather they go about setting a plan to correct the mistakes and do something about the situation. They always look upon failure as an opportunity to correct and improve.
  4. Real leaders do not spend any time criticizing others, they use their energies to “help” those around them. They never “exclude,” but are always willing to ” include.”
  5. Real leaders avoid “put-downs” and sarcastic remarks which can wound other people. There is make themselves look better by making others look worse. In fact, they are constantly looking for ways to complement those around them and build common self-respect.
  6. Real leaders never strike back or try to “get even.” Even though they are susceptible to pain, they refuse to hurt another person in an attempt to “even out the score.” They see blame and revenge as wasted energy, therefore, they move ahead rather than dwell on the negative.
  7. Real leaders “share” rather than “compare.” They see competition as a chance for self-improvement and know the only person they are really competing against is the person in the mirror. They “accept” others for who they are and support them in becoming better.
  8. Real leaders accept the reality of peer pressure, but do not “give in” to the threats of “not being one of the gang.” They understand that their integrity is the foundation of their present and future growth and they pride themselves in being a “self-thinker.”
  9. Real leaders never attack anyone or purposefully hurt another person. They understand that we always end up hurting ourselves when we choose to attack another.
  10. Real leaders always ” go the extra mile.” When others have given up, quit, or rationalized an easier shortcut, the real leaders are “on the job getting it done.” Yet when the awards of championship are passed out, they are always in the background applauding everyone else.

As one can see, the demands for being a great leader are extreme. It’s certainly not all spotlight and glitter. Yet, the personal satisfaction which comes from doing the job is of immeasurable value…and it will always lead you to a new and bigger challenge.

It is so much easier to “join the masses” and complain about everything than it is to roll up your sleeves and “do something” about it. Yet, we all know, regardless how much “fussing and fuming” we do, eventually, it is all going to come down to: getting on our feet and taking in whatever task lies ahead. The real shortcut is to jump in and do it!!!

There are many times when we don’t want to be responsible. It is so much easier to blame someone for the circumstances than to go about making the situation work; yet, this is the one quality evident in all great leaders: The ability to stay in there until the job is done. They take on every task with a sense of purpose and care for those around them. They are not smarter, more talented, or luckier than anyone else…they just don’t give up!!