What is a Leader?
What ingredients are required in the recipe for Leadership? I recently attended a luncheon in Lakeland in which Marco Rubio spoke (eloquently and passionately – without notes – and plenty of water) about what Leadership is. He explained that Leadership does not divide, Leadership exists in those who lead on principles, not on agendas and “Leaders are not title holders, leaders are people who act.”
Leaders are not title holders.
This resonated with me. Until I found myself in a position of leadership, I believed titles were required. When I started my local business in 2009 – an Internet Marketing Agency in Lakeland, “no one” knew me. Well, no one with titles knew me. Today, I have built an online community of Lakeland professionals who care about our local economy, our community and collaboration. I have no title, but I am a leader. I have been the lone nut, dancing for quite some time – Taking Leadership Lessons from the Dancing Guy, I realize it takes guts to stand out and brave ridicule – but there have been many wonderful people dancing with me along the way, taking that risk too. I embrace these followers and I know that without them, there would be no Lakeland Business Leaders Group and I would not be writing this blog post about leadership.
“Thanks for leading.”
I received a message from someone today about their appreciation for the work I do in creating an environment that fosters growth and nurtures business relationships in the community. At the end of his message, he added, “Thanks for Leading.” When I see messages like that, and I think about myself as a leader, it still surprises me. Not because I don’t think I am a leader – I am. I am someone who believes in my principles, I believe in uniting, not dividing, and I have no title – I just act. What surprises me is how far I have come and the simple fact that I was determined to make a difference – and that has made all the difference. There was no training, or course completed. There was no nod from above, no invitation to lead. I simply placed everything I had – passion, determination, and willingness to work and take risks – into something I believe in – community.
Find a way to help people, and do it consistently.
For over two years, I have taken action to unify the local community, because I think it’s the only way to achieve great things as a community- and I want great things for Lakeland. I have opened my heart and my mind to the myriad businesses and business people in Lakeland who are working hard to make a living, and a difference. I have supported thousands of people, simply because they have chosen to connect on the “socialsphere” and they are working hard to be heard, and they need to know that someone is paying attention to what they are saying. I have invited businesses to rally our LBL network to help them win contests, and some of them have won – we were instrumental in sending a local chef to Chicago to compete as a finalist in a national competition. I have promoted events, organizations, non-profits and individuals who needed support. I have identified a group of people who want to make a difference – and they support the Local Cash Mobs efforts I helped bring to Lakeland.
I don’t think I ever considered in all of this that I would emerge as a leader – that’s not what I was trying to do. Someone needed to help people connect – and since no one else was doing it, I did it. While I was looking for someone to lead me, I discovered that if it was going to happen, it had to start with me. Yet, it wasn’t an accident. It didn’t just “happen.” It was because I was passionate about serving the community, and because I didn’t wait for someone to invite me to help. I saw a need and decided I could help – and I did and I continue to do so. And, as long as I can help, I intend to do so.
No one is going to invite you to be a leader.
I believe there are a lot of people in Lakeland (everywhere actually) who are waiting for someone to ask them to help. They are waiting for an invitation to lead. I have learned that there is no invitation – and there is no map with detailed instructions as to how to go about making a difference. I don’t know why we are all so passive about getting involved. I am not sure why we think we need to have titles, or connections in order to use our skills and our desire to help and to make a difference. If there were more people willing to take initiative – to lead – I think they would find, as I have, that there are a lot of people who will help. Being a leader isn’t something you aspire to be. Being a leader comes as a result of being willing to work hard toward something important, and to serve the community as best as you possibly can.
What do you think it requires to become a leader? I’d love to know your thoughts, and hear what you think about leadership!