During a particularly intense contract negotiation I was Chairing for a small local union, a woman about 60 years old approached me while we were in recess and point blankly asked me, “Are You Born a Leader or can You Become One?”
I was taken back by not only by the question, but by who asked it. This lady was the perfect stereotype of the gray haired grandmother who took no crap from nobody. She, in spite of risking her job, was a major spearhead in forming the local union and would scrap with any boss who tried to take advantage of a worker.
I had already considered her a leader, a very strong one, but here she was asking this. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I know I never answered her question and it has never left my memory after all these years.
This question is similar to the proverbial “Which came first, the chicken or the egg.”
Based on my vast experience in leadership roles, as well as playing the role of a pawn, there are indisputable facts I know about being a leader.
I believe a person must be born with the inherent qualities and character which make a strong leader.
They must be honest, yet willing to tell a little white lie if it positively benefits the whole. Let me qualify this statement. I’m not talking a Wall Street Insider lying to profit his whole clientele. I’m talking about the Doctor in the bush saying he was totally out of Quinine, when in fact he had some, but not enough to serve the purpose.
They must be of trustworthy character. A deceitful thief will never make a good leader. It’s ironic that a petty thief will try to become invisible so their misdeeds are over looked, but the grandiose thieves, and con men are thieves, seem to orchestrate as much publicity as possible about themselves. Their tenure as a leader stops immediately upon discovery of their crimes.
They must be born compassionate towards their fellow man. A person can not be a leader if all his energy and focus are on him and his needs and desires. He must have the ability, and true leaders naturally possess this, to put Him, last.
There are but a handful of Sister Teresa’s in history, so don’t be afraid of being assigned a life of poverty if you’re compassionate. You can be a millionaire and still be compassionate. Just give some of it away to the needy.
They must be Intelligent and Wise. This does not mean they have to be able to comprehensively explain the Theory of Relativity. It means he has to be wise enough to know when he is ignorant about an issue and intelligent enough to intensely set about learning the issue.
So there’s your answer. A person must be born with the qualities of becoming a leader. The chicken was first.
Wait a minute, something’s not quite right. Let me think…aren’t just about all people born with the qualities of honesty, trustworthiness, compassion and intelligence?
Do babies come out lying and stealing baby formula? Do they bad mouth the nurse holding them and aren’t they wise enough to know when they’re hungry and how to suck that nipple, real or fake, in order to relieve that hunger?
Based on these facts everyone is born with the qualities of being a leader. It’s those that hone and refine these skills who stand above the rest and become leaders.
Guess I’m back to square one with the chicken or egg deal.
By Andrew Clapton