How to know if you are a leader.

We often think of leaders as the people who gets things done.  Stepping up, making the tough decisions, or laying their life on the line.  I have had the honor and privilege to know some great leaders in my life and certainly many have displayed those traits.  There are other leaders though the ones who quit. Quitting does not seem at first glance to be a trait of a great leader but it can be.  Quitting often follows changing, reassessing, or reconsideration and some great quitters have doted history.

Abraham Lincoln quit being a store clerk to be a lawyer and then quit law to be a Politian.  Harry Truman quit selling suits, Ronald Reagan quit acting, and even John Kennedy quit skippering patrol boats.  Does it mean that these men were failures?  They may not have been the best at their first jobs but in the long view, they were much more successful in later endeavors. 

What was the key to these famous quitters being remembered as successes instead of failures? It is that they knew that what they were doing at the time was not successful they saw limits to what their current actions would return.  Their willingness to change and to grow into something more than they were at the moment ultimately made the difference.

When at the end of our life we look back few of us will say that we set a course while young and perused it doggedly for our entire career to see its fruition in our maturity.  Far more likely is it that we will say we tried many things and found something eventually that pleased us. What is truly tragic though are those among us who will never find that passion that ignites our imagination or inspires our soul.

Can you call a life spent searching for personal passion or excellence a life poorly spent? We are called by our very uniqueness to express ourselves in various ways. Perhaps it is only by trying on different labors or self images can most of us discover who we are or what we should become. It is there that the leader in us may emerge.

Do not misunderstand not all are called to lead some are called to follow.  What leaders there are among us are not born that way they are formed or built from failures.  So you look at yourself and ask am I a follower who has failed or am I a leader building a foundation for my tomorrow by attempting a challenge and learning from mistakes. How can you determine if you are or are not a leader?

What then determines when you become a leader? First service to a cause, group or goal beyond yourself; you must be able to set aside your own interests for the greater good of your cause.  Second you must have a wider and longer vision; you must see the bigger picture beyond the day, week or month but to years into the future. Additionally you must be willing to learn, grow and change; this is as far beyond formal education as sprinting is from crawling, it is reading , reading, reading, and then reading some more, and not light mass produced entertainments but histories, philosophies, and other such works of note.  Lastly you must try, truly try, put forth an effort of your maximum potential.  As they say in sports leave it on the field. You should be totally spent unable to take another step. Put in all that you have holding back nothing.  If you give an excellent performance whether  you succeed or fail that is the indication that you have the potential for leadership.

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