We All Have to Lead
Whenever humanity achieves anything, it is leaders who drive the hard work. Not only do leaders help ensure that all the big things get done, they make sure all the little things happen as well. A skyscraper needs not only architects but workers to take responsibility for cleaning up the work site night after night. A Michelin-rated three-star restaurant has its executive chef and the person charged with washing pots and pans so they are spotless and ready to use again.
Some people yearn to lead millions and accomplish great things. Some have leadership thrust upon them when they are asked to work with others to get a task done at work. But whether eager or unwilling, if the leader is going to be successful, he or she needs to lead at some point.
Born to Leadership?
There is a pervasive myth that all real leaders are natural born: Either you've got it or you don't. Some people, through charisma and a sort of personal magic, are doubtlessly able to get just about anyone to do almost anything. But on its own, that isn't being a leader. Under a selfish person of this sort, nothing substantial gets done, and as history has shown, a great deal of damage can occur.
Some people grow up with the expectation that they are to lead in the future. Members of royalty or family dynasties are examples, but for every strong leader like Queen Elizabeth I, you'll find a Louis XVI, whose profligate ways hastened the French Revolution. Talk about an anti-leader.
Then there are those who spend time learning the ways of power, cultivating their tans and good hair, and who think that being hired to manage a group or company makes them leaders. Sorry, but that is only evidence of good genes, a stylist, and enough time on their hands to sit under a tanning lamp.
Thrust into Leadership
This is the long way of saying that there are numerous misconceptions about leadership. You don't need to exude animal magnetism, come from a storied background, or impeccably follow a list of external characteristics. Leadership is the act of gaining cooperation from people in order to accomplish something. If you can do that, you can lead.
Sure, there are personality traits and talents that can make the work easier. People as naturally charismatic as John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan find it easy to get supporters on their sides. Yet others who don't have that automatic command have found themselves capable leaders when they needed or wanted to be.
If you doubt whether some people really do have leadership thrust upon them and aren't looking for glory, consider the Old Testament. Moses had no interest in leading the people of Israel, but circumstances were such that he did. But then again, if you hear the voice of God calling from a burning bush, it's difficult to live your life out in quiet obscurity, pretending that it never happened.
Learning to Lead
If you want to — or need to — lead badly enough, you can learn what you need. If you couldn't, then no book could help. Here are the factors that form the foundation of leadership:
Something needs to be done.
No one person can do the task.
Others are interested in helping get the task done.
You take responsibility for accomplishing the task.
You harness the combined efforts for success.
The first two are the circumstances that create the need for leadership. The third and fourth are the ones that let leadership work. It's the fifth — where you actually exercise leadership — that is the subject of this book. You could depend on luck or inherent talent, but the surest way to lead is to learn the necessary skills.