You Can't Bully your Way into Leadership

We all knew them growing up. Bullies. Whether they were forcing their opinions on us in the classroom or they were telling us how to enjoy the playground, these people felt that they had somehow been divinely appointed as "in charge." They developed core belief structures that told them if they handled a situation heavy-handed enough, they would prevail. These same people carried these cognitive models into adulthood and use them daily at work. Some of you may be coping with them at this very moment. Just because they are louder, more opinionated, and sometimes down right mean, doesn't make these people leaders. A good leader doesn't have to beat you over the head with their title or their position. Good leaders are a combination of several things — talent and skill, context, and most of all opportunity. They can't just profess it and someone can't just bestow it upon them.

Leadership talent and skill are those qualities that so many people like to profess that they have. The talent to lead is innate. Some of us are just born with the ability to be what is needed in the moment (more about that later). The skill comes in developing that talent. Talented leaders develop a keen sense of awareness about themselves, how they affect those around them, and they develop a keen awareness of their environment. All of these things work to make them a good leader. This heightened awareness allows them to inspire, to motivate, and to serve those who need them.

Context is the circumstance in which leaders find themselves. There is a need for someone to lead. Even great leaders are sidelined when the context calls for autonomous groups and individual leadership is unnecessary. People need to want to be led because of some difficulty of situation. Perhaps a project is behind or over budget. There may be highly talented people who want someone to pull things together and help them find their best. There may even be those who can't see beyond the next few weeks and they need someone to give them a vision of what the future looks like beyond that horizon. All of these situations, and many others, are the context in which a good leader can develop.

Finally, good leaders know when the opportunity to lead presents itself. They are aware of the context, they are aware of what's needed, and they're ready to provide that. They seize the opportunity to share their vision for the future, to motivate others to find their greatest potential, and to inspire team members to work together to achieve a common goal. The term, "Leader," has become ubiquitous. People use that term to describe someone who's actually in charge of a process. If one is just ticking the boxes — one is just in charge and not necessarily leading. When we see talent and skill, context, and opportunity all come together, that's when we see great leaders arise.

So leadership is not something bestowed or even forced. It's when talented people answer the call of opportunity within the right context. It allows us all to be inspired to our personal best. Don't let the bullies get you down. Take a minute to know who's actually leading. It may not be about their title or their position, it may just be about how they treat others when given the opportunity to help. Great leaders will always know when the opportunity calls. Don't let anyone bully you into believing something else.
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