What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: mjp3000
As I was nearing graduation at BYU, I began to explore my employment opportunities. I narrowed down a long list of potentials, weighed the pros and cons, and prepared for interviews. I was somewhat sidetracked, however, by a phone call from a counselor in my ward’s bishopric.
This man is a highly successful businessman, owning and managing several properties and businesses around Utah valley. The purpose of his call was to request that I be interviewed for a fairly high-level management position in his company.
Naturally intrigued, I obliged. As the interview went on a few days later, he explained to me that it was not important to him that I knew what I would be doing. No prior experience was necessary for this job, though like any endeavor it certainly would have been beneficial. He indicated that rather than looking for somebody with lots of work experience in the given field, he wanted somebody honest, intelligent, and hard-working.
This baffled me, as it ran contrary to everything I had been taught in school. I was under the impression that education was primarily to specialize in a field. Upon graduation, you would seek employment in said field (most of the time) and increase your work experience and knowledge in that area of expertise.
While I was appreciative of this man’s assessment of my abilities, I ended up taking another job. I have always been amazed, however, by this man’s willingness to hire a capable person over an experienced one.
I have since come to the realization that he was looking for a leader—somebody with solid mental acuity, initiative, and critical thinking. While I feel I’ve yet to attain such a status, I recognize the value that true leaders have in our society.
So what is a leader? Are they the politicians making hollow promises and pandering to their voting blocs? Are they managers in the workplace? Might they be celebrities with good name recognition advancing a cause? What makes a person a leader?
Peter Drucker aptly defined the word with four examples:
All the effective leaders I have encountered knew 4 things:
1) The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers. Some people are thinkers. Some are prophets. Both roles are important and badly needed. But without followers, there can be no leaders.
2) Effective leaders are not those who are loved or admired. They are those whose followers do the right things. Popularity is not leadership. Results are.
3) Leaders are highly visible. They therefore set examples.
4) Leadership is not rank, privilege, titles, or money. It is responsibility. (Peter Drucker, via Quoty)
To become a leader, one must first understand how to think. Trained in school for a specific vocation or field, students are primarily taught what to think, as they memorize trivia or read their textbooks.
In my case, I was taught all sorts of things relating to Information Technology. However, I was not trained how to think in school. I lacked exposure to critical texts that in years following would help me open my eyes, analyze principles, and apply myself in fields I was never trained in.
This, I believe, is what my once-prospective employer was seeking after: people who know how to think. Such a potential for leadership is easily applied to many fields of study or work. Granted, one cannot become a professional pianist by simply reading classics and engaging in speech and debate. However, the mind-expanding training offered by rich classic texts broadens one’s horizons interminably, thus allowing a trained web designer to seek employment or be proficient in an area outside of one’s background.
Leaders are instilled with qualities that will bring them success in a variety of endeavors—not just those they specialize in. They will recognize historical lessons, understand economic principles, and make rational, sound decisions that will bring them and those around them prosperity and happiness.
It is the potential for leadership in the rising generation that will improve our families, communities, country, and the world at large. This endeavor requires understanding true principles and instilling them in our children and peers through proper and effective educational methods. It also, understandably, necessitates an investment of our time and energy.
But whether one’s leadership is appointed or assumed, I believe it is incumbent upon each of us to prepare ourselves for that position through reading good books, maintaining productive dialogue, and being anxiously engaged in good causes. It is then that we will become an instrument for good in the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.