On Real Leading

There is so much written every day about leaders and leadership that you can't keep up with it. It's overwhelming at times.

Then something good appears in the feed. Here is a blog post featuring some leadership wisdom from Herb Kelleher, the legendary founder of Southwest Airlines. Kelleher was a real leader. He did things that a real leader does such as paying attention to people, engaging them, trusting them, getting out of their way, striving always to improve, and building more leaders.

You could build a leadership course around the example of Herb Kelleher.

But we have to be careful when we start looking at examples like Kelleher. When we look at leaders, we tend to stay focused on CEOs and others at the top. The truth is, there are leaders at all levels and in all corners of organizations.

In fact, leadership is not about level. It's about leading. And leading is the courageous choice to identify a problem or a challenge and say "I will take a stand. I will take action. I will lead others by my example."

The other day, the newsletter from my church came in the mail, featuring a story about teams of clean-up volunteers from my parish who have made several trips to towns at the Jersey shore that were devastated by hurricane Sandy. This is leadership in action. And it's going on all the time. Everywhere. Ordinary leaders in communities and organizations the world over. Men and women who may not make big salaries or garner big headlines.

Nevertheless they are leaders: people who see a crying need and they step up to it. They are making a difference.

That's real leadership.

Leadership is not a position. It's a choice. As Warren Bennis said so well, Leadership is the capacity to turn vision into reality.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Tuesday January 29, 2013. For more on real leading, check out my latest book, Lead the Way, a leadership book for real leaders.


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