I was raised on a healthy ration of science fiction movies made in the 50’s and 60’s. These low-budget works typically involved aliens clad in shiny cloth robes, who remarkably did not look that different from us. Sometimes the producer would kick in a few extra dollars to buy silver metallic makeup to smear on the faces of the actors. The plot always involved sinister extraterrestrials whose goal was to dominate our planet.
As a teenager watching these cinematic masterpieces, I always awaited one much-anticipated line to be spoken. Invariably, within seconds of the space saucer’s door opening; the chief alien would speak those magic words. “Take me to your leader!”
The townspeople, usually from some rural farming area, would scramble to find the mayor or the chief of police. In some of the more ambitious plots, these same folks would scramble to get a hold of the President of the United States. I am sure that the elderly gal on the town’s telephone switchboard just happened to have his number handy!
It will never cease to amaze me how the world equates a title with leadership. If you are a CEO, a chief of any kind, a president, or even a director; it is presumed that you are a leader. It is as if there was a special badge issued when you were promoted to a certain level of authority and responsibility. In the immortal words of Mel Brooks, “We don’t need no stinking badges!”
Every day, I see leadership being exemplified. Usually it comes from the most unlikely sources and is displayed by people who you would never think of as leaders. That then begs an answer as to what exactly a leader is! It does not come from your title or your standing within an organization. Rather, it comes from within!
Managers and executives execute projects. They have a specific end goal in mind, a time limit to complete the effort, and a resource pool to draw from. They then define success when they reach the goal on time and within budget. Leaders, on the other hand, are the keepers of the keys to vision. They inspire and mentor those around them. In short, they turn others into believers and doers.
Ironically, managers think that their purpose is to be served. Leaders acknowledge that their purpose is to serve. A great cathedral or monument is only as strong as its foundation. That foundation always begins with a cornerstone. A true leader takes this piece of knowledge to heart and uses it to build his architectural masterpiece!
Leadership begins with integrity. The leader must develop a value system and an unwavering commitment not to deviate from that system. Then through word and deed, they share those strands called values in a tapestry of integrity. What is the end result? In a word, it is “trust.” Once established, trust becomes the clear channel of communication for the leader. The only thing left is to add a few dashes of inspiration and the recipe for leadership is complete.
I would have loved for one of those cheesy old sci-fi movies to have taken an unexpected twist. Perhaps they should have brought the “school marm” out to meet the aliens!