What makes a leader?

One of the most daunting questions to get in an interview. I remember my high school marketing teachers would do their best to prepare us for our future in the work force, and had us practice interviewing and professionalism skills.

This is one of the hardest questions to answer.

Why?

I mean, it’s pretty straight forward- what makes a leader?

Most of us have experience spearheading a project or being part of some student organization at one point or another. So why is it a difficult question to answer? Some people are so experienced in leadership, that they should be able to answer this question as if someone asked about their birth date or their address, but most people can’t.

If someone asked you how to bake a cake, it would be easier to explain the more you’ve done it.

Explaining leadership should be 2nd nature to most people according to that logic.

Experience = Easy Explanation, right?

Nope.

I believe that experience and leadership don’t correlate because leadership is passion driven. Leading 100 projects doesn’t mean anything. Even if they were all relatively successful, there’s a vital missing piece to equation.

The average person can bring their followers from point A to point B, that doesn’t take leadership. It doesn’t take leadership to walk across the street.

What’s missing is growth. Think “It’s about the journey, not the destination”. Rather than only focusing on reaching the end goal, leaders care about developing themselves and the people around them in order to enable them to reach the end.

Leadership is about inspiring growth and progress within others. It’s about rolling up your sleeves and doing the nitty gritty work when times are tough. It’s about putting your team before yourself. It’s about understanding and compassion, but also about firm direction. It’s about developing people, not employees. It’s about creating more leaders.

A good leader makes people do what needs to be done. A great leader enables people to do things they never thought were possible.

Leadership is the power to hear the people with a clear, open, and attentive mind.

Leadership is the power to bring their inner fire to the people and share their passion.

Leadership is the power to unlock the potential that the people never knew they had.

Three jobs. To listen, to inspire and to empower.

None of those jobs have much to do with the leader, it has to do with the people they lead. Kind of ironic right?

The more you lead, the more you realize that leadership isn’t primarily about what you can do, it’s about revealing what they can do.

They’re the vision. You’re just the visionary.