Are leaders born that way? Are they outliers? Do leaders become so when they have a title behind their name? Does it come with a degree or certificate? What does it take to be a leader?
Truly, anyone in a position to influence another is a leader. Granted, I did not specify ‘good’ leader. Indeed, leadership, for better or worse, is influence of others through motivation and ability on a personal, social and structural level according to the authors of Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change. In order to be impactful, leaders must have the motivation and skills to influence the trajectory of specific behavior or set of behaviors. In addition to personal motivation and skills, they must be able identify with and marshal a group of likeminded individuals to nudge them in adopting or strengthening the intended behavior(s). Lastly, there must be a reward linked to the behavior and a structure or environment to support it.
Under the many professional hats I’ve worn over the last 30 years, the study of behavior never ceases to amaze me. In my home, community, social circles, and work place I continually search the landscape for what influences and drives human behavior.
In a quick survey of your surroundings, you are likely to find birds of a feather flock together. We all have observed the complainers, whiners, belittlers, bullies, doers, change makers, activists, and peacemakers. We know the ones with strong work ethics and those who “wouldn’t work in a pie factory” as my mother used to say. There are tightly woven groups of addicts, gang bangers, civic members, scholars, and religious communities and in every group, there is a clear leader.
If you happen to see a positive change you’d like to witness in the groups with whom you identify, I would encourage you to take action and be the agent of change. Perhaps your motivation is living in a safer neighborhood. Can you invite others to discuss creating a neighborhood watch? Is the reward less crime or increased peace of mind? Do you have enough members to take turns? Perhaps your motivation is to help feed those down on their luck. Could you visit neighborhood restaurants and ask if they’d put up a bulletin board where you could leave a gift certificate for a meal with a positive note? Possibly encourage 5 of your friends to do the same and challenge them to reach out to five others. Perhaps your motivation is creating more positive activities for youth in the community. Could you plan a community kickball event? Maybe organize a movie night in the park.
Practice your leadership by starting with a small project. First, identify your motivation by saying, “My (family, community, workplace, school) could be better if (name whatever effect you want to see happen).” Second, determine what action would need to take place in order to make that happen. Third, identify those people or groups who could support the action. Last but not least, identify the reward (success breeds success) and the tools you need/environment required to accomplish the goal.
A few examples can be seen throughout Maysville if you are willing to look. Property owners joining together and improving their homes and businesses, Kidz Day, Paddlefest, Pig Out, Yoga in the Park, Maysville Classic, blessing boxes, Empty Bowls, Master Gardener’s work, kickball tournaments, Filthy 5K, Wald Park grand opening, Relay for Life, Simon Kenton Festival, Memorial Walks/Runs, Green Dot Training, music festivals, arts activities, Washington Hall sessions, Cummins Nature Preserve events, Commission on Human Rights Fairness Ordinance, Farmer’s Market, Smoke Free Partnership of Mason County, community theater, walking trails, walking challenges, blood drives, recovery networks, Mental Health Awareness training, First Friday Celebration of Art and Health, Danny Hay Skate Park, MYPN Community Clean Up, etc. There is something for everyone.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead
Whatever action you’d like to see in the community is within your power to make happen. Make it positive. If not you, then who?