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Michael Norton (doc) is Director of Engineering for Groupon in Chicago, IL. Michael's experience covers a wide range of development topics. Michael declares expertise in no single language or methodology and is immediately suspicious of anyone who declares such expertise. Michael is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 41 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

You are a Leader

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Leaders are chosen

Leadership is neither assigned nor selected. People choose whom to follow and a leader thereby emerges.

“The led must not be compelled, they must be able to choose their own leader” - Albert Einstein

We always have a choice. We may not like our options. We may feel we are choosing the lesser of two evils, but nevertheless, we follow at a minimum because we choose not to do otherwise.

“The man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap.” - Ayn Rand

Leadership is by example

Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing. - Albert Schweitzer

Words inspire others to action, but they don't make a leader. Words make an orator. Action makes a leader. One must do, must set an example, must establish a direction in order for others to choose to follow.

Positive, negative, or even neutral; the actions taken set examples for others.

A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not. - John Quincy Adams

The quality of a leader is the quality of their decisions

Every action is the result of a decision. The quality of our decisions are not determined by the quality of the choices available, rather by the quality of our character. What we do and do not consider to be available choices is entirely about character. What we ultimately choose is a mere nuance.

The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action. - John Dewey

Through character, we make our decisions. Through each decision, we determine an action. Through each action, we create a result. Through each result, we garner a lesson. Through each lesson, we build character.

Leaders follow

All leaders are followers. All followers are potential leaders.

You cannot be a leader ... unless you know how to follow, too. - Sam Rayburn

Leaders select others from whom they take cues; others whose actions they find inspiring.

To lead, one must follow. - Lao Tzu

Leaders inspire others through action. Great leaders fall in stride beside others who are on the same path.

We are all leaders

We all make decisions. We all take action. We all set examples. We are all leaders.

We may deny our qualifications. We may retract our candidacy for leadership. But it is not up to us. Leadership is neither assigned nor selected. Leaders are chosen.

When you show up late to stand-up and fail to uphold your team agreement, you have take an action and are, in that moment, a potential leader for others to choose to follow.

When you invite a team mate to pair with you, you have taken an action and are, in that moment, a potential leader for others to choose to follow.

Strive to be a good leader

Your influence, intentional or not, is greater than you may imagine. Strive to do well. Endeavor to do right. Be cognizant of the example you set with every action.

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Published at DZone with permission of Michael Norton, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Paul Shezier replied on Fri, 2012/04/13 - 12:11pm

When I did my management training the trainer said "A manager is someone you have to follow, and leader is someone you want to follow."

I can think of times in my personal and professional life when I've become a leader not by election or promotion, but by the fact that people just followed me. And I can think of on time, when I noticed a shift away from another in the group to my of leadership status. There was nothing formal about it, but something had changed and suddenly I was in charge.

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