My first introduction to leadership, what it is, what it isn't, and how it affects people and situations around the world came through several books I read by John Maxwell. I have read many other authors since then, but a couple of my favorites by John Maxwell are "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" and "Becoming a Person of Influence." Both are worth a read by anyone in any walk of life, not just current or aspiring leaders. I greatly appreciated his well researched insights into the world of leaders and leadership, and his own experiences and knowledge bridged a large gap in my life about my own expectations of good leaders, and enabled me to spot the bad ones even easier.
Still, being a "big name" leader is not something everyone is cut out to be. In truth, there are many people who simply desire good leadership in their lives. They have talents and abilities they want to put to good use, but they also want to know there is a good and noble purpose behind the motivations of the person in front leading the way. In short, whether we realize it or not, when people seek to contribute of themselves to a cause, they are really contributing to a purpose, a leader if you will, and there are expectations of the leader that must be met.
Working two jobs now, that idea really came to the fore in my second job. By day, I pretty much interact with professional people. They may rank high or low in the scales of society, but by and large they are business people with a very clear vision and focus of how personal interactions can affect profit and loss, and they are always keenly aware of the value of each dollar they spend. Whether their business is big or small, the people I usually deal with are usually very cautious about making any kind of decision, and their actions and decisions usually unfold over time. It is rare that even a very good decision is made in a moment.
However, in my other job, I deal consistently with entry level employees who are still cutting their teeth in working for a living. Over half the people I work with are under 25 years old, and at least two or three are still in high school. They are full of energy and usually a blur of motion going from one task to the next, but with that speed of action there is a cost in the process of thought, and sometimes relationships pay a price. To be thrown into this mix from my day job can be quite disorienting on a mental level, and finding myself under the charge of someone who loses their cool when things go haywire is not something I was expecting to handle.
That is when a truth of leadership struck me that I have only read about before, but only now had a chance to actually experience. The positional leader in a situation is not necessarily the real leader. Keep in mind, we all have expectations of our leaders, and when a leader fails to meet our expectations, the opportunity for the real leader to step forward arises. During a moment of momentary crisis, the positional leader in the room lost his cool. His temper showed, words were exchanged, frustrations were physically evident, and tension filled the room to the brink of explosion. It was at that very moment that a very firm, very calm voice took over the room. The voice was not loud, but it immediately commanded respect, and within seconds order was restored, decisive action was taken, the tension died, and the crisis was averted.
Later, the particulars of the situation were worked out between individuals, and new ways of handling things were set in order to be sure such a crisis never happened again. Through it all, I learned who the real leader was in that moment. The leader was not the "person in charge" everyone took orders from, the leader was the one who fulfilled the expectations of leadership by everyone in the room. Wherever you happen to be in life, whether you are "in charge" or not is not what matters. Just think for a moment what expectations you have of people in leadership positions over you. Are they meeting them? If not, chances are, you don't really see them as much of a leader. Who is meeting your expectations of leadership in the different areas of your life; at church, at work, at home? As a man, are you meeting the expectations of those you seek to lead?