LeadershipSocial Issues

What It Really Means to Be a Leader

What comes to mind when you hear the word “leadership?”

We often believe leadership is something reserved solely for those with the title of being leader. As if we aren’t able to be a leader until we receive an official title, like “captain” or “president.” This type of thinking leads to the belief that we are unable to possess leadership and to be a leader until then.

This simply isn’t true. The quote I believe best defines leadership is the following:

“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not followers.”

– Ralph Nader

Despite the absence of a title, by displaying leadership you ARE a leader. By being a leader, you set an example for others to inspire others. You encourage others to be the best that they can be, by positively impacting their lives. THAT’s what it means to be a leader.

What It Really Means to Be a Leader

At SHAD, a Canadian leadership program for youth, my ideas of leadership were completely changed. As a participant, I was assigned a campus away from my hometown to live with other SHAD members for a month. They were all type-A personalities, who had been picked from over 6,000 applications. I was immersed in a high-achieving environment full of leaders and people looking to make a change.

I quickly came to the realization that I did not need to be the one directing and assigning tasks to be a leader. I found that being a leader was really understanding my own personal limits and working towards integrating myself within my team to work together. I noticed that those who took charge did not label themselves or put themselves above their teammates — rather, they empathized with them and they offered help whenever possible.

What It Really Means to Be a Leader

Since my time at SHAD, I believe the following points are what truly leads to impactful leadership.

One of the first steps in becoming a leader and displaying leadership is acknowledging that you are capable and able to be a leader no matter the situation. You need to be confident in your skills and believe in yourself. By believing in yourself, you are creating reasons for others to believe in you. Leadership is about inspiring others, not about giving yourself a title.

Secondly, you are and always will be part of the team. As a leader, you will be leading the group and helping others work towards a common goal. You should never separate yourself from the team. Instead, work alongside your team to complete the tasks at hand. Others should aspire to be like you for the work and effort you put in, not because you are able to direct others.

Remember that individuals won’t remember what you say or what you do, but they will remember how you made them feel. This tip is crucial when working in larger groups. If possible, always try to create a personal connection with each and every team member — by offering help when needed and giving credit when due, teammates feel appreciated and may follow your example to help others. This positive feedback cycle can maintain a nurturing community. As a leader, create more leaders by inspiring and impacting the those on your team.

Leadership actions can be and should be carried out everyday. You can make a difference in one person’s life each and every day, whether it be through listening or simply letting people know you care. Keep in mind, however, you should always be your number one priority. Know your limits and stay accountable for everything you do. Lastly, you are capable of anything and everything you set your mind to, so keep pushing through and believing in yourself.

Good luck!

Written by Anne Guo for SHAD.

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What It Really Means to Be a Leader