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Leadership Q&A: A Leader’s Calling

Is there such a thing as a calling to leadership? Or is leadership simply a function of working within an organizational structure?IMG_6358

This may seem like a very odd question, but it truly is not.

Most people I know do not think of themselves as leaders. They see other people as leaders. What they see in those individuals does tend toward leadership.  However, they don’t associate their own similar actions as those of leadership.

There are a few reasons for this.

1. People see leadership as an authority-based role within an organization.

2. People also see leadership as an influence process. As a result, opinionated people are often viewed as leaders, where quieter people are not.

3. The way organizations are structured inhibits leadership by punishing initiative and innovation.

On a more personal level, there are additional reasons.

1. They lack self-confidence.

2. They feel that everything they do will have to be perfectly planned and executed.

3. They lack of clarity about what they want to achieve; their vision for impact is vague and confusing.

Add on this list a sense of inadequacy at not knowing enough, being skilled enough, lacking experience and the demands it places on one’s personal life, and it is not surprising that there is less leadership happening than there should be.

The best leaders, like Abraham Lincoln or my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Brown, were great because some passion or commitment compelled them to lead.  Whether they were great tactical leaders is of secondary importance. Their greatness came from a deep reservoir of caring that was reflected in their values, commitments and actions. It is from that position of caring that a calling to leadership emerges.

It does not matter who you are, where you are, what you do or have done. All that matters is that you take initiative to make a difference.

Leadership happens when you act to make a difference. It can be something small like opening the door for someone, or great, like establishing a scholarship program for disadvantaged children.

How does one discover a calling to lead?

I believe that most people already know. A calling to lead is the recognition that in this particular area I want to make a difference. Our impact is the measure of our leadership, and it is different for every individual. Whether you are a CEO or a janitor, you can make a difference, and it changes the environment you are in.  Because we are all different, we are not competing with one another to lead, but contributing to creating shared place for leadership impact.

Once we know a little, we act, we learn and grow in our ability to lead. It is a developmental process. All it takes is a great passion for some cause that is greater than the feelings of insecurity that holds us back.

We can start at any time to lead. All it takes is our initiative, a first step, and we are on our way.

You don’t have to call yourself a leader. Instead, just say, “I want to make a difference.” Or, ” I want to be a person of impact.” That’s all you have to do to begin to follow your calling as a leader. It is where all leadership begins.

About the author

Dr. Ed Brenegar I'm a leadership speaker, writer and consultant who is a mentor and catalyst for change. I assist leaders and their teams in the transitions required to succeed in today's complex organizational environment. I live in Western North Carolina. I'm involved the Boy Scouts, a charitable leadership training group called Lessons In Leadership, an ordained Presbyterian Church USA minister, and am the host of the Say Thanks Every Day social network.

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