Healthcare workers have been justifiably lauded as heroes during the past year-plus. They have shown incredible courage, determination and an ability to stare adversity in the face daily, and never back down. Some of them may have been inspired by the top medical or nursing officer at their hospital or clinic. But ultimately, they had to reach into their own hearts and souls to answer the bell. Even knowing the risks to themselves and their families, they still rose to help so many others they did not even know.
Their inspiration came from within. From their value system. From their desire to look beyond themselves. Their desire to care for and serve others.
That is the essence of true leadership. It doesn’t require a title. One doesn’t have to be a CEO, head coach, pastor, manager, music director, mayor, king and on and on. In fact, there are some with such titles that aren’t very good leaders.
Leaders don’t need a crown.
Leaders recognize in themselves what they can do to help others no matter their prescribed role, no matter their title, if they have a title at all; no matter what position they play, no matter their age, etc.
One leader early in my life was my 10-year-old teammate on my first football team. It was the first time I had ever played tackle football and I was out of my comfort zone. I didn’t really know the intricacies of the game, which is not unusual for kids that age. After I went to the sidelines after one set of plays in which I clearly must have looked tentative and intimidated by the whole scene, a 10-year-old teammate put his arms around me as if he were a seasoned coach and said, “Hey, it’s ok. Here’s what you want to do when you get out there again.” That kid was David Van Horn, now the head baseball coach at No. 1 ranked University of Arkansas. His moment leading me was ominous. David went on a remarkable coaching career for the past 25 years, including seven College World Series appearances. His Razorbacks were one pitch away from a national championship in 2018.
David was a leader even at such a young age. Even then, his top priority was to help our team succeed, not his personal success. He instinctively cared about our collective success, even though he was the best player on the team.
There are leaders in all walks of life. Certainly in jobs, on teams and in professions and organizations. But leaders don’t have to be part of a group to lead. They can lead as an individual and as a human being. The ultimate leadership is the desire and practice of volunteerism. Volunteers serve the highest purpose. They give of themselves without expecting anything in return. Most don’t even want recognition for their service.
Look around you when you look for leadership. Or look within you. You may find ways to serve your company, your team or serve something which you are not even a part. There doesn’t need to be a job description that says “manage,” “supervise,” or “lead.” There just needs to be a desire to help others.