Leadership is a choice, not a birth right


By Sue Schreuder

Nobody is born genetically encoded not to lead.

Everybody is born with the potential to create influence, but whether we do or not, is a choice.  And its not always an easy one.

Thinking back over your life to date, have you experienced a person who inspired you?   What about a person who exhausted and frustrated you?  Could you identify the differences in these two people?

Leadership, or the lack of leadership, is a common thread in every aspect of our lives, whether at work, in our homes, or in the communities we are part of.  It is no wonder that it commands so much focus.

But does leadership merely equate to a job title, a promotion, or a position?  I believe that status or a perceived authority, does not equate to true leadership.  But leadership by title or position is a stereotype that has been developed and entrenched over generations.   During a recent discussion with a diverse group of students on the topic ‘’what does leadership mean to you’’, it became apparent that their definition and understanding of leadership is one defined by circumstances and a set of parameters and expectations.

They believe that a leadership status is for those who are wealthy, have a senior job title, manage a team, or have a form of authority over others.

But, if one chooses to play out their innate potential to influence, in different areas of their lives (other than the corporate world), are they not also leaders?

Consider mothers with their unconditional love and unlimited sacrifice for their children.  Consider grandparents, known fondly as Gogo’s in South African communities, who have courageously stepped up to raise their grandchildren in the absence of parents.  Consider the unemployed graduate who spends their weekends volunteering at a local library or soup kitchen.

Are these not examples of leaders, albeit leading in circumstances outside of a stereotypical definition of leadership.

I was left wondering how this stereotype is limiting our next generation of leaders and the impact that they could have in our world.  Have we given them the wrong leadership role models?  If we want a new generation of leaders, something we desperately need, we have to shine the spotlight on what real leadership is all about.

As Albert Einstein aptly said;

‘’The world’s problems cannot be solved with the same thinking we used when we created them.’’

And the world’s current leadership crisis cannot be solved by the same stereotypes of leaders who created it in the first place.

One of our philosophies at Lead with Humanity is that leadership is a choice, not a birth right. If we believe the latter, what limitations and unnecessary stress are we placing on our global population to lead? Wouldn’t we rather have individuals who are self-empowered to make a difference?  Individuals who play to, and maximize, their strengths and who influence others by who they are being, not necessarily what they are doing or the role they are trying to play.

There are a multitude of examples of individuals with a ‘leadership title’ because of where they were born or what they represent.  For example, a family member of a successful business icon; members of the royal family; a colleague with a certain tenure; or a list of titles or labels behind their name.  Does this position automatically result in true leadership?

Then there are those examples of leaders who’ve morphed into a position of leadership, with no specific title, background or expectation and rather based on the impact they have on others.  It is their purpose and passion which influences others to follow and collectively impact the world.

Lead with Humanity is privileged to engage with the most inspiring self-made leaders throughout our immersive experiences.  These are individuals who have chosen to stand up, speak up and make a difference in their communities.  There is the common notion of giving, embedded in their leadership styles.  None have studied leadership, yet when you observe and listen to them, they personify the most inspirational leadership.  They have chosen to lead, make a difference and impact lives irrespective of what they receive in return. The result is that people choose to follow them and they choose to emulate their actions in their own circles of influence.

So yes, nobody is born genetically encoded not to lead.  But when you choose leadership, there will be challenges.  And there will be risks which often dominates the benefits.

When you choose leadership, you need to show up courageously, irrespective of the challenges you may face.  Leaders are immersed in their journey, without being attached to an outcome.  They must deal with failures and disappointments with grace and courage and draw strength from them. They work hard at their relationships and serve unconditionally.

With these challenges come vulnerability and a risk of failure and rejection.

Yet, the benefits are immense and they lie in a truly effective followership.  A followership of passionate individuals who choose to mirror the same behaviour and are inspired to collectively achieve a common purpose.

So please, don’t define leadership by your title, experience or birth right.  All it is, is a simple choice – a choice available to everybody.  The choice of how you will show up, how you will influence and what results you will inspire.

And choice is a power that nobody can take away from you.