How do you become a leader? In attempts to find out the answer to that question, many of us spend thousands of dollars on leadership conferences, read countless books on how to become a leader, or even join various organizations that are aimed at developing leaders. Now, I'm not saying that these are bad methods to use in our quest to become leaders, however, I believe that sometimes we can get so caught up in following programs that we over complicate the process. The best and most simplistic teaching I've ever received on how to become a leader came from the mouth of my four-year-old son, Jayden. Jayden is in pre-school and like most parents of children who go to school for the first time, we want our son to be well received by his peers and make lots of friends. My wife and I check the status of how he is doing socially in school bytalking with him during our ride home from school. We ask him questions like “who did you play with today, was anyone mean to you, did you have fun with your friends today?” And his response is normally, "I had so much fun daddy," followed by a list of his classmates that he played with that day. One day during our ride home I went through my same routine of asking him about his day, but this time I did something that I’d never donebefore. I started going through the list of his classmates, asking him did he play with each one. It was in this moment that I learned one of the simplest but most impacting methods in becoming a leader. While I was in the process of going through the list of Jayden's classmates, I got to one of his classmates named Marcus (name changed for privacy of child), and I said "Jayden did you play with Marcus today?" His response was "No daddy! I don't play with Marcus because he is always getting into trouble, he doesn't listen to the teacher, and he's always going to timeout." But then he added, "I play with Henry, because Henry is always good, he listens to the teacher, and I don't get into trouble with Henry." It was from this brief dialogue with a four year old that I came to a very simple conclusion ...becoming a good leader often times depends on the people that you follow. To be a leader we must first follow the leader.
People often associate the word "leader" or "being a leader" with being in charge, solving every problem, or making all the decisions. However, a good leader must first learn how to follow; and the type of leader you become depends on the type of people that you follow. In life it's our choice to be a good leader or a bad leader, but before you can become either one the first step must be that of a follower. Now, I know some of you probably don't believe me and you are probably thinking to yourselves, "that's crazy, leaders are not followers," and I understand that. However, I would encourage you to check out what the bible has to say about following in order to lead. Proverbs 13:20 states "Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble." This verse tells usthat if we want to be wise, if we want to become leaders, then we have to follow people who are already wise leaders. It's by following good leadersthat we begin the transformation process of developing into a good leader ourselves. We will begin to take on the characteristics and traits that make them a good leader and apply it to our lives. However, the problem we have is that many of us don't recognize the value in following. A lot of us have to always be in charge, or be in the limelight, and the results from that usually is we never grow as a wise leader. We find ourselves foolishly associating with the wrong people and before you know it we are in trouble.
It's not rocket science, if you want to become a good, wise, innovativeleader, you must first follow a good, wise, innovative leader. If you can't follow, you can never lead. The secret to becoming a great leader is......Following The Leader!