Leadership is an odd thing. Almost everyone thinks he knows what it is. Unfortunately, we all have suffered from bad examples in history, in mass media, and, most sadly, in everyday life. Yet there are also wonderful examples of leadership throughout time, whether of religious figures who preached their understanding of truth, people who stood up to tyranny at great personal cost, explorers and intellectual luminaries who opened new worlds, or everyday people working hard to ensure that someone would always do what was necessary for the world.
Leadership is a critical topic, particularly during times when too many people are willing to let others undertake the thinking and the doing. If the world is nothing more than a collection of petty self-interests, then it is ultimately a roiling cauldron of chaos. But there are interests that transcend the personal.
The world won't get anywhere without someone leading the way, and that's what this book is about: how you, today, right where you are, can expand your leadership abilities and skills. It doesn't matter in what part of your life you want to accomplish something bigger than yourself. It could be at work, with a volunteer group whose mission you applaud, or even in getting something important done in your city or town. You can be a leader in your family, in your neighborhood, or in your country. If you have the desire, you can start or continue on your journey to leadership.
Because leadership is a path, this book doesn't offer a laundry list of check-it-off points. You won't memorize the rules to leadership. Memorization can help for a limited time, but when circumstances change, you may find yourself stuck. Instead, you'll concentrate on important areas of knowledge and skill that you can then intelligently apply. If you understand the requirements of leadership, you can apply your efforts to varying circumstances.
You'll start by considering the leadership styles and traits that can help you in your quest. You'll move to establishing a vision, which is probably the most critical part of leadership. Without connecting your efforts and those around you to something greater, things won't go very far. You'll come to grasp the need for motivating others (and yourself), communicating with everyone involved, and driving progress through goal setting. Building a team, coaching those working with you, and learning to keep people interested, involved, and working together are the ways to harness the power of a group.
The book also addresses some specific leadership issues, such as the differences in leadership between corporations and nonprofits, how to best recover from mistakes, and how to lead when you aren't technically in charge of anything. The book closes with a section on ethics; in today's society, we could all stand a reminder of what it means to take a stand for what you believe is right.
All this might sound like as much fun as hitching yourself to a plow and working the back forty acres, but don't worry. Though the topic is serious, you can still have a lot of fun being a leader. There are few things as enjoyable as taking charge to get things done and finding that people listen and work with you. Before you know it, you might be like the guy who was a pretty good trumpet player. He worked his way through high school and college. When a job wasn't quickly forthcoming on graduation, he started his own band while he wanted to find something suitable. Years later he was passing a mirror, took a glace at it, and said, “Good Lord, I'm a trumpet player!” Work hard: The mirror is closer than you think.