In order to be a good leader, you have to first be able to lead yourself. What does that mean? It means you need to be able to understand your own emotions, set attainable goals, and position yourself to meet those goals. It means being self-controlled and self-motivated. If a leader’s job is to help others be driven and motivated and achieve their goals, then you as a leader should be able to achieve the same results in yourself. Leadership also requires understanding that it is in some ways easier to lead yourself because you already have an understanding of your own motivations and desires, whereas when you are leading others you have to make blanket assumptions, unless you are in a one-on-one situation, where you still must figure out the mind of the person you are trying to encourage.
Is it possible to lead without having any type of self-direction? I suppose it’s possible. But I have come to a couple of conclusions on that. First, if you aren’t leading yourself, then your methods will be inherently flawed or haphazard, based on instinct rather than truth. Something may sound like a good tip for leading people, but until you have experienced it then you really have no idea. The easiest way, of course, is to test it on yourself. Second, the practice of leading by example is extremely powerful. If you live what you are telling others to do, you will not only understand what you’re talking about more intimately, but you will be able to share the little nuances that cannot adequately be expressed by others. They will also be able to see the actual fruits of the things you are telling them to do, even if the circumstances are not quite the seem. They will see the way you carry yourself and be able to trust that you know what you’re talking about.
What is meant by leadership? I believe leadership is being in a position of authority, but this authority must be used in order to help people focus themselves towards a particular end. I like the allusion of a shepherd and a flock of sheep. The sheep are autonomous and have basic instincts and desires, and without the shepherd they would be able to do this somewhat reasonably. But the shepherd is able to direct the sheep so they are able to more efficiently attain what they are seeking, be it food, water, or shelter. The shepherd also protects the sheep from predators and does other things the sheep would not be able to do themselves. The shepherd puts his own life down so that he can serve others.
It is entirely possible to lead without this frame of mind, but this is I believe the archetype or the ideal of leadership. Obviously leadership differs based on the setting and the group that the leader is exercising authority over. But on a basic level, the same concepts apply. My perspective is from a religious background, so my idea of a leader is someone who is able to encourage spiritual growth, protect people from false doctrine or deception in general, be a comfort in times of distress, and other such things. It is not something you learn about from reading or going to school, but it must be done from a heart of love. Experience and education are also necessary elements of leadership, but without the force of love and compassion, a leader is cold and detached from his flock, not attentive to their actual needs, but only what he perceives they might require. He may get by most of the time, but there is something deeper that is within reach which is what a true shepherd is called to be.
This is all mere conjecture as I have never successfully led anything of this sort, but it makes sense to me. Hopefully this makes sense objectively as well. I would like to make more posts about leadership in the future, as I think it is a vital topic to understand, even if one is not in a position to exercise authority over anyone else. As I mentioned at the outset of this post, everyone is a leader of at least person: the self. If you can understand how to lead yourself in the right direction, then my assumption would be that taking the lessons you’ve learned and applying that to a larger audience would be well within the realm of possibility. Even if you never have a need to do that, you will be better equipped to reach your goals and lead yourself to greener pastures.