“He’s just not a leader” Ouch!

It was said in a room packed full of students and teachers about me. I wasn’t in the room at the time, thankfully!

So how did I hear about this?

Well, a friend of mine who was in the room, told me the day after I was voted in as School Captain. 10 minutes before I was voted in as boys school captain, a teacher stood up and told the room when discussing the candidates for the role,

“Mike is a great young man, but he’s just not a leader!”.


Even though I got the role and I listened to the comment with a brave face, it did hurt. It probably hurt because I wondered if it was true.

Maybe I just wasn’t a leader! But I wanted to be a leader. I felt like I had it in me but I wasn’t super confident and regularly allowed my lack of confidence and low self-esteem to take me to the back of the room and hide rather than the front of the room.

This led me over the years to ask the common question,

“Are leaders born or made?”

I believe they are born for sure! You can’t lead if you’re not born! Of course, the real question is, “are you born with leadership qualities or can these be developed?”. There are lots of opinions and theories on this but my personal conviction and observation is that leaders can be developed and grow into dynamic influencers as they practice some essential practices such as;

  1. Observe
  2. Listen
  3. Serve
  4. Love
  5. Practice
  6. Imagine
  7. Plan
  8. Clarify
  9. Act courageously.
  10. Reflect
  11. Repeat.

The fact is that people have a lot more capacity to lead and influence but often don’t grow because they haven’t been developed or they believe that you either naturally have it, or you don’t.

The reality is that the teacher I spoke of hadn’t seen me in enough contexts to know if I could lead. Based on what they had seen, it looked like it was a big gamble to give me a leadership role when they hadn’t seen me lead. That’s fair enough. The fact is that I was captain of my cricket team, a youth leader at my church and went on after school to start multiple programs and events where we built teams of leaders and have now been leading for over 25 years.

So how did I become a leader?

I observed what motivated and influenced people. I listened to what people said, like my Dad, who told me that he “respected humble leaders”. So, I began serving and learning to be humble, even when it was a great sacrifice. I learnt that when you put others first, people begin to trust you and know that you are not about self-serving personal power but rather using your power to help others succeed.

You can become a leader and influence people to be who they are meant to be. Stay teachable and see everything and everyone as an opportunity to learn. You will be amazed in a short period of time how you grow and how your influence expands.

FREE GUIDE: Before your next presentation avoid the TEN BIGGEST MISTAKES SPEAKERS MAKE 


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