OPINION — If someone asked you to describe what an example of leadership might look like, what would you say? For most of us, the temptation would be irresistible to point to someone else – anyone else – who is in a position of prominence.
I can think of a better example.
A longtime friend in Southern Utah recently noted on Facebook that, after 45 years, he was changing his voter registration to unaffiliated.
This was no petulant overreaction to a political race that didn’t go his way. It was a conscious and principled decision to part ways with a political party that has been in decline for many years.
He has grown tired of watching elected officials of both major parties become increasingly driven by their own self-interest and hidden agendas that take priority over the nation and its citizens.
By withdrawing his political and financial support, he is voting with his feet and his wallet against those who say one thing and then do another. Though he doubts the bigwigs will personally feel the impact of his decision, it’s far from a futile gesture.
My friend’s example is living proof that there are still citizens whose moral convictions are not dependent upon current political trends. As a man who is already long been known in his community as steady and trustworthy, my friend is engaging in a kind of leadership that is often overlooked because it takes place out of the media spotlight.
He’s choosing to focus his energy on more productive ways of living
He’s not giving up. He’s choosing to focus his energy on more productive ways of living than mere politics. Unlike a great many voters, my friend has put actual effort into knowing who he is and what he stands for.
When faced with the choice of compromising his values or separating himself from mainstream society, he has the courage of conviction to step away from the crowd. That’s what leadership looks like.
He’s not going about bashing those who choose to remain in the system. Rather, he’s using his influence – and power of example – to show, rather than tell others what they might also do.
It’s using your influence as wisely as possible
This is the essence of leadership. It’s using your influence as wisely as possible wherever you find yourself at the moment.
The best leaders don’t set out to create followers. They create more leaders by the gravitational pull of their good example. That’s not something you’ll see many politicians doing.
It’s curious that more of us don’t see ourselves as leaders. Sometimes our aversion to leadership is based in false modesty or in a desire to avoid having to take responsibility for difficult choices.
There’s no shortage of superficial people who aspire to leadership as a means to the end
On the other hand, there’s no shortage of superficial people who aspire to leadership as a means to the end of dominating others. How might we better recognize authentic leadership and the need for our own involvement?
Here are a few distinctions to ponder.
There is a world of difference between being cocky and being self-assured.
I don’t need to name names in order to bring to mind the embodiment of pride and hubris that exemplifies so many of the personalities we see on TV or in the headlines each day. Even on social media, there’s a lot of self-aggrandizement and posturing.
The ego-driven leader is consumed with keeping up appearances
One of the key indicators that you’re dealing with a superficial type of leadership is when the person in question has something to prove. Whether it’s winning every argument on the internet or bending a nation to his will, the ego-driven leader is consumed with keeping up appearances.
They simply must “win” whatever discussion they are a part of. They have an almost pathological need to be seen as better, smarter or more capable than others. Mere disagreement is treated as an affront.
Of course, this need for recognition doesn’t extend to actually having skin in the game.
That means the superficial leader carefully avoids any real accountability for their words or actions. Most politicians and more than a few internet trolls fall into this category.
Life is too short to waste time dealing with such facile opportunists.
Authentic leadership can be easily recognized in that it is accompanied by humility and a regard for others. I see this often in my friend and radio colleague Stan Ellsworth when he is out in public.
Stan is an Emmy-nominated TV host and is easily recognized everywhere he goes. Yet he has a remarkable gift for making every person who steps up to meet him feel as though they are one of the cool kids.
Authentic leaders have enough conviction in their values to accept that they may be misunderstood, misrepresented and maligned, yet they’ll still do what’s right. They’ve already won the toughest battle – with themselves.
Once they’ve apprehended the truth, as best they can, they share it without regard to what others may think of them.
Choose carefully which leaders deserve your attention.
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of It Matters How You Stand.
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