As a child growing up, did you play follow the leader? It was a playground game where one kid was designated the leader and the other kids had to follow and do what he did. If he went down the slide, everyone went down the slide. If he climbed the monkey bars, everyone climbed the monkey bars and so forth. Ever remember when the kid no one really liked very much was the self-appointed “leader”? Game over, right? Why did no one follow “that” kid? Was it true early on that he was not a leader?
A leader by definition is (Noun) a person or thing that leads; a guiding or directing head of movement of a group. The dictionary makes being a leader sound easy. So, why did the game end? Reality is being a leader means way more than our dictionary leads us to believe. It has nothing to do with a title but a mindset. A leader and a manager are two completely different things. Can you lead without a title? Can you manage without being a leader? The answer is absolutely, we see it daily in businesses, usually bad businesses. A manager runs his team through fear and intimidation. There is always a threat, spoken or silent, that not doing a good job has consequences. His team is stressed out, has a high turnover rate and a very unhealthy work environment. His team members turn on each other with a “dog eat dog mentality”. Certainly not some place I would work. A leader, leads from the front. The leader leads by example. He never asks the team to do some task he is not prepared to do or has done successfully. He is the first to arrive and the last to leave. He constantly sacrifices for the good of the team. There is no intimidation, the leader sees the opportunity to coach the member up to a higher standard. The team wants to perform at its best because of its leader not for fear of failure.
With this being true about the leader, he or she must acquire the following traits. The leader is proactive, adaptable, passionate, enthusiastic, reliable, honest, be trustworthy, have self-control, be consistent, respectful, a great communicator from both listening and speaking and most of all willing to put the needs of others ahead of your own. The leader understands in order to lead, he or she must have some type of likability, or pleasing personality, in order for those team members to follow him or her and build a successful business or group. People tolerate managers and they gravitate towards leaders long before they receive their title. The leader asks not for a title but an opportunity to excel. The leader gives instead of taking from the group or team. By giving, the leader understands the dividend of good that shall be returned to him or her. Leaders can always spot another leader, for better or for worse. Leaders are rare and should be well taken care of in order to prosper from their leadership.
So, as a child, were you ever the natural leader in follow the leader or did you work at it?
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Tim Wilhoit is owner/principal of Your Friend 4 Life Insurance Agency in Nashville, TN. He is a family man, father of 3, entrepreneur, insurance agent, life insurance broker, salesman, sales trainer, recruiter, public speaker, blogger and team leader with over 28 years of experience in sales and marketing in the insurance and beverage industries.