Updated: May 27, 2021
Being a great leader isn't simply a role reserved for the type-A alpha/male or alpha/female. It's not about calling all the shots, giving out the orders, or making all the decisions. Definitely not always the loudest one in the room. It involves some of these things, but there is a greater qualification that is often underestimated or even gets completely ignored--Simply put, the effectiveness of your influence and leadership will always be in proportion to your followship. That's not a typo, it's a word. I just made it one!
If you want to lead, you must follow. But follow what or who? Perhaps those who have already arrived at where you want to go. Those who have achieved what you're still hoping to. People who have lived long enough to have some things to say to you. Yes to all! But, also those who care enough about your life that they can speak into it with love AND with truth. Someone who can tell you what they see you becoming or not becoming, whether it's congruent with the expectations you have of those you are attempting to lead. All these people are important in the life of a leader.
Most people who write and speak about leadership focus on certain attributes a leader should have, or the things a leader should do. There's more to it though... Who a leader is, is just as important--if not more so--as what a leader does. It's important because the greatest leaders are self-leaders. In fact, a pre-requisite to leadership is that you are advancing in self-mastery. After all:
You cannot lead where you have not been.
You cannot build what you know noting about.
You cannot ask for something you yourself have not given.
You cannot expect discipline if you have un-mastered appetites of your own.
These are not secrets or new revelations:
Lao Tsu said, "Mastering others is strength; mastering oneself is true power."
Plato said, "The first and best victory is to conquer self."
Andy Stanley said, "You won't be a leader worth following if you have not led yourself well."
Self-mastery is not easy or everyone would be leaders. It is grinding and grueling work, but you are worth the effort and focus it may require to master yourself. The more in control you are of YOU the more attractive you become to those around you. People will not follow a leader they perceive to be weak. And a leader who doesn’t have himself in control is weak. They won’t follow an undisciplined leader either. They want a leader, and I argue that they have the right to expect to, who has their emotions under control, their mind is right, their appetites in check, their house in order, and their patterns congruent with their words.
So, be the best possible version of you. Develop yourself into someone you would be willing to follow. Say and do whatever it is you do as a leader, just know that at the end of the day, you will reproduce who you are. Lead on my friend.