Archive for February 1st, 2010

The Essence of Leadership

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Everyone knows that BBYO is a youth led organization. And in developing youth leaders your chapter and region has more than likely run leadership programs of various types. In those programs the question has probably been asked: “What is a leader?” And as part of that program you have probably heard numerous answers and opinions.

So let us consider that age old question: what, indeed, is leadership?

First, it’s important not to confuse leadership skills with leadership. Leadership skills are specific skills that you develop in order to exercise leadership. Public speaking, conflict resolution, event planning are all leadership skills.

True leadership, however, has to do with what you do with those skills.

So what is leadership? From what I’ve seen, good leadership comes down to one simple statement: A good leader acts in the best interests of the community, putting the community’s interest ahead of their own.

Now this doesn’t mean that a leader is a martyr – who has to constantly sacrifice themselves for the community. For one thing, most of the time the leader’s interests are the same as the community’s – after all, the leader benefits if the community does well. But once in a while, the interests of the individual do not match the interests of the community. In this case you see the true measure of a leader. Does he or she lead to benefit themselves, or to benefit the community?

Ultimately, this is the only question that matters, but it is not a simple question. It can be difficult to know someone’s true motivation – especially if they are skilled or charismatic leaders. Nevertheless, in my experience no matter how skilled or charismatic a member may be, ultimately a leader’s real motivations cannot be hidden from the community (at least within a chapter) – members know each other too well.

How do you spot a good leader? Here’s a hint – look at what they do when they are NOT leading the group. Do they help others without seeking recognition or credit? To they give credit where due? Do they strive to grow other leaders, or keep the glory to themselves? Can they support other’s visions or only their own? Ask yourself these same questions and you may well find yourself seeing great leadership where it matters most – when you look in the mirror.