Content originally taken from eBella Magazine, “What it Takes to Lead” by Kelly Townsend.
When one thinks of a trailblazer or a great leader, doesn’t it seem like there must be something really extraordinary about that person that makes him or her a leader?
How do I lead? What does it take to be a great leader?
Americans, as one of the powerhouses of great leadership, have come up with lots of explanations and reasons for a great leader’s performance. If you are like me, you have read many books on what great leaders did that had them show up in the world as great leaders, yet we are left perplexed by the lack of leadership we see in our country, in business and in our own families. What is it truly to be a leader and how does one develop oneself to create access to being a leader and the effective exercise of leadership?
It begins with a future, possibility or idea.
What has been revealed to me over the years is that trailblazers or great leaders are ordinary people being given by a future, possibility or idea that grabs them and has them deal with whatever they need to deal with to fulfill on that possibility. Leaders or trailblazers come in all shapes and sizes. When I think about trademarks of a great leader, a key one it is that they are usually up to something bigger than themselves.
An obvious example of this was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. What was so powerful about King’s dream is that it was equality for all people. I wonder what he had to authentically deal with regarding his own foibles and functional constraints that could thwart or limit his ability to make that monumental dream, so much bigger than himself, come true. What I see that made it successful is that the possibility of equality was never against anything but rather, for something for others that could reach into the hearts of people no matter what their race or religion. I really think there is something about not just being given by a big dream, goal or milestone, but how you approach it.
I also saw that if the leader is developed and shows up in the game. You can see there is an approach or way to play the game bigger than one’s personal concerns, but King was up to something bigger that was also not against anything else. There is clearly a way in which the situation occurs for that ordinary person, how the environment occurs and who they are for themselves—that whole presence—that plays a role in the kind of difference to be made in the world.
We have seen leaders fail when the approach became positional or against something. You can see it with people who developed agreement for what they were creating in their leadership and then they became positional or ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ and lost the listening or agreement of others. When a leader gets positional, they create an environment where others agree or disagree, creating separation.
Somewhere, somehow, something occurs as a threat. This impacts the kind of difference a leader can make. Agreement of groups can be very powerful and it takes something to be a stand for what may be counter intuitive to others and to create conversations that can alter the agreement out of the opportunity of the group’s listening. To be a great leader, one must deal with being a stand for what is possible, versus a position for what is right. Once again this is why King’s efforts are so powerful to me.
At a local level, we have many trailblazers, past and present. è Bella magazine has been lead by a trailblazer. Sharon Hood and her team started the magazine during one of the most challenging of economic times for a small business owner; inspiring people in one of the worst economic conditions in our lifetimes. One can’t help but notice all the women’s activities and opportunities showing up all over our community since the magazine was first published nearly five years ago. è Bella magazine is a magazine for empowering women and it was not created to exclude men or be against men. In fact you may notice men are honored. Her product was created inside a game bigger than herself. It has been created from and for what is possible.
This inquiry of creating ourselves as leaders only leaves me with more questions. I think the time is now to look in our current business environment and what is happening in the world. The time is now to reexamine who we need to be and revolutionize as well as empower new trailblazers for the future. What does it take to be that kind of trailblazer in our own businesses? This leaves me curious with what kind of leaders are required in our community so that our children, schools and businesses will continue to thrive? Who will be the leaders of our next decade locally, nationally, internationally? What kind of leadership can we provide in our local community that will make the kind of difference to make this a sustainable and viable destination for years to come? How does what you are up to occur for you? How do you occur for yourself? Are you up to something bigger than you?