Honestly, I am a kind of person if I see something in someone that is of good example, I may not have the gut sometimes to compliment in person, but I will surely notice it, and try to find an indirect way to let that person know.
I have been very lucky to have some family members who have been able to show me how to be a leader. And I looked up to them since I was young. They have been a positive influence on me to also want to be a leader. And I really appreciate their love, support, and everything they have done for me. And not just me, I have witnessed them helped and served several other people in their lives through various platforms and channels.
Apart from my family members, I also have met several other leaders in my life; through Church, school, and work places, again home, and so on. I have learned so much from all of them. For most of them to this day, we are still communicating, and few of them have lost contact.
To me a leader is someone who has committed his or her life to something greater than herself or himself. Since it’s good to learn and discover how we can improve ourselves to continue to be leaders to those God has placed in our lives as well as we can, so let’s found out more about what it takes to be a leader.
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric 1981-2001.
There is a difference between being a boss and a leader, regardless of how high the positions of these individuals are. You may be a boss, but still lack leadership skills or gifts and talents. Though the leader and the boss may have some of the similar qualities, but being a leader requires much more. This is simply because, leaders tend to possess gifts, talents, and skills naturally or through self improvement that inspire people to follow them, to be loyal, and to produce. Leaders know how to influence others to follow a given direction.
Leaders tend to see things in a different light or in big picture. Most of them are visionaries and innovative, they provide visions and directions. Unlike leaders, bosses may know how to do things and deliver, but not all of them know why they need to do those things or to deliver in such a way. Basically, leaders are more concerned about living a legacy, rather than having a status quo. So they tend to think in terms of long run. In the Bible, the book of John chapter 13 verses 12 to 17 (John 13: 12-17 AMP), Jesus somehow illustrates this. And it says, “So when He had washed their feet and put on His [outer] robe and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right in doing so, for that is who I am. So if I, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet as well. For I gave you [this as] an example, so that you should do [in turn] as I did to you. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed [happy and favored by God] if you put them into practice [and faithfully do them].
Bosses get their authority and power from being appointed to a position by more senior management. Leaders get their authority and power from being able to influence and persuade others to follow them. In fact, they can’t be leaders until they have people to follow them or look up to them!
Apart from having the skills, talents, and abilities, leadership is about building relationships with people. Leaders are like ambassadors who represent the people or the followers. Therefore, the leader will always take the blame for the people, but not necessary with the boss, most of the time with the boss, you are on your own. Without the right people skills, you may be a good boss, but you are likely not a good leader. Again, Jesus somehow illustrate this in the book of John chapter 10 verses 11 to 18 Amplified Bible translation (John 10: 11-18 AMP). He said, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His [own] life for the sheep. But the hired man [who merely serves for wages], who is neither the shepherd nor the owner of the sheep, when he sees the wolf coming, deserts the flock and runs away; and the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them. The man runs because he is a hired hand [who serves only for wages] and is not concerned about the [safety of the] sheep. I am the Good Shepherd, and I know [without any doubt those who are] My own and My own know Me [and have a deep, personal relationship with Me]— even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father—and I lay down My [very own] life [sacrificing it] for the benefit of the sheep. I have other sheep [beside these] that are not of this fold. I must bring those also, and they will listen to My voice and pay attention to My call, and they will become one flock with one Shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My [own] life so that I may take it back. No one takes it away from Me, but I lay it down voluntarily. I am authorized and have power to lay it down and to give it up, and I am authorized and have power to take it back. This command I have received from My Father.”
One of the characteristics of being a leader is for your people to be able to trust you. So trust plays a major role in leadership. As a leader you will want people to be able to trust you. You will want to build that level of communication and support that can make people trust you.
Things like giving a credit when is due, or take a blame when is necessary. As a leader, you need to accept the responsibility for both good and bad. Let’s use an example of a basketball coach, and let’s say the coach is of male gender because there are also female coaches. As a leader of the team, when his team loses, most the time the coach is the one to take the blame, and when the team wins, people congratulates him, even if he was not the one who played the game. When you begin to stand up for your team, your team members will start to trust you. When you are fair, it makes team members want to fit in your team and participate to high performance. Not only that, you need to show that you care about your team, and you want them to succeed. One thing you can do that is to open the door of communication and support.
And lastly, be truthful and a good example. We trust those who live, and walk the talk. Always do the right thing and when you don’t do the right thing, admit it. Be willing to show your vulnerability as a leader, because at the end of the day, you are also a human being.
As one of the characters of a good leader, is to give credit when is due, it would be nice if I share two examples of the leaders I have worked with before at my previous work places, one of them most recently and another one a little bit longtime ago. Both are women and are about of the same age. And I am not going to mention names, you know for privacy.
I had a privilege to work with this project director for the organization we used to work for; a smart, intelligent, successful, brave, friendly, caring, but also charming lady.
There are several good things I can tell you about her, but what I liked most about her is her faith and confidence. She always had a positive attitude on things and us, as a team. She believed in us and had high expectations that we could deliver as a team. She always complimented us and told other work partners and institutions that she had a great, and an excellent team.
Another character of this leader had been was she liked to develop those around her. Whenever there was a training of some kind, she always forced us to pursue it. For instance she would say, “There is this training, you must go.” And if there was a need to write an abstract for the training, she would insist to see her if you needed more guidance.
Leaders are able to delegate. She would delegate tasks for the team fairly and make sure everyone is involved and know what’s going on. And let’s say we had a deadline approaching and things needed to be fastening up, she would say, “So and so work on this, and so and so work on that. I need all the work to be done by COB today, and if you think you cannot make it tell me ahead of time, so that I can assign someone else.” So it was up to you to prove yourself that you can do it.
Great leaders are committed to their jobs. Most of the time if she didn’t have meetings outside office, she was the first one to come to the office, and the last one to leave. She was a very hard working and committed woman.
Leaders have well communication skills and value people. Some members of the team used to call her aunty, though to me she was like a sister. When we would come to the office, the first thing we would ask if she was in the office, and if she was there, we would put our backpacks and handbags or whatever we had on our desks, and headed to her office to say hello. She would have done the same too, and she did her best to care for the team including in some of our personal lives matters.
I have also had a privilege to work with a pharmacist, and also pharmacy manager to this well known pharmacy; also smart, intelligent, successful, friendly, caring, shy but, brave and at the same time sweet lady.
I was working full-time at the same time going to school, though is some semesters I took classes full-time, and other semesters part-time. It was in abroad, and I was staying with one of my sisters and her family, but later on her husband got a job offer to teach to this big prestige university that was located in another state, so they had to move to that state. So this pharmacy manager was like a family to me during this time when I had no family near me. I didn’t have a car, and I used to go to school in the morning, so after school I would go to work till we close the pharmacy at 9:00pm. On the days she worked, she would always give me a ride back home to the apartment I was staying. I mean, even before my sister and her family moved to another state, if I didn’t have a ride home, when my sister or her husband couldn’t pick me up, she would offer to give me a ride back home.
As mentioned earlier, leaders like to develop those around them. When I transferred to her store location, I was already working as a pharmacy clerk for few months in another store in another state. And this drug store was the one that was very close to where we moved. I guess I was also lucky, because when I went to see if I could transfer to this pharmacy, she only had one pharmacy technician, so she needed extra help because we were doing an average of 200 prescriptions orders daily. After few months I started working there, it was required by the state law, by January the following year, that in order to work in the pharmacy, you must be certified. I remember how she used to encourage me to study and become a certified pharmacy technician. Each time when there were no customers and everything was in order, she would teach me. She had these handouts for me to read that she printed for me. And so I studied with her, and also studied by myself at home for few months. Then I registered for the next schedule exam. I remember that morning my sister driving me to the exam place. I was so nervous because I didn’t want to fail. Thank God, I passed the exam.
Again, leaders have well communication skills and value people. As I mentioned earlier, I have siblings living abroad, during this period, each of them was living in a different state. There was this Christmas holiday; I didn’t travel to celebrate with family and I didn’t have any family member or friend visited me; and yes, I didn’t have a boyfriend. And my two roommates who we were sharing an apartment had plans of their own, so I was going to celebrate that Christmas alone. So she asked me to come and spend with her family during Christmas, and I told her no, I think I will just stay home. But then, a couple of days later the store manager announced, we were going to have a Christmas party, and everyone should come to the Christmas party, and only if you are sick, you will be excused. And I wondered, why all the sudden we are being told there is going to be a Christmas party…mmh. I could be wrong since it has been a while, but to this day, I think she had something to do with the Christmas party negotiation. Well, I got two gifts that Christmas day, and I had really a wonderful time.
We lost contact, and then in January last year in New Year’s Day, I got an email from her wishing me happy New Year, and we had so much that we talked about. This year in January, she also emailed me again to wish me happy New Year. And I told her that I was not married yet and of course after she asked me. And guess what? She offered to hook me up…hahaha. She is so sweet.
I know…true stories. I have so many other leaders that I know that I can use as examples. Perhaps I will be able to write about them when I get another chance. I think one of the reasons God places these leaders in our lives is to show us by a living example how to be a leader. And if you are a leader, please continue to lead, serve, and help people even when you feel you are not appreciated by those you have helped. God has ways to reward people for their kindness, giving, and serving.
Being a servant leader is not a joke. In fact, Jesus said it well about servant leadership in the Bible, the book of Matthew chapter 20 verses 25 to 28. In Amplified Bible translation it says, “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles have absolute power and lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them [tyrannizing them]. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your [willing and humble] slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [paying the price to set them free from the penalty of sin].”
We can learn a lot from Jesus Christ teachings. You know, for us Christians not only He is the greatest teacher and leader, but also our Savior and Lord. The first time I read these Bible passages about leadership that I have shared, I said, “Wow, if this is what it takes to be a leader, I still have a lot to improve.” It only looks easy when reading about it. But the God who helped Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Gandhi, and so many other famous great leaders and the ones who are not famous that we know in our everyday life, who have sacrificed a lot for the people God has placed in their lives in so many ways, that same God can help us also become leaders because He knows what plans He has for each one of us.