I am amazed at the number of leadership books that are being written these days. I was in a bookstore recently and counted 14 shelves of leadership books. There were hundreds of titles, written by coaches, quarterbacks, CEOs, entrepreneurs, pastors, retired military officers, motivational experts, and, of course, politicians. I can’t help wondering if there’s really that much to say about leadership. I tend to believe it’s not as complicated as we think.
I love this from Chuck Colson:
“As a young man, I served in the United States Marine Corps. I went into the Marines at the time of the Korean War. I went through training camp as a young lieutenant at a time when 50 percent of the lieutenants were coming back from Korea in pine boxes. I remember being told in basic training that my job was to stand up in the middle of combat and say, ‘Follow me .’ And, of course, the fellow who stands up gets shot. But that is your job. You stand up and say, “Follow me,” because everyone else wants to stay in the trench.”*
That, it seems to me, is the essence of leadership. When everyone else is hunkering down, you stand up. When everyone else is scared to move, you say, “Come on, let’s go.” And you do it, realizing that you’ll probably catch a bullet for your trouble. Look at all the great leaders of history and you’ll see that this is what they do. They may have different personalities and management styles, but ultimately it boils down to being the first to stand up and step out.
I doubt that the world needs more leadership books. I know it doesn’t need more people who read leadership books and never do anything with what they read. What the world does need is more people who will dare to actually lead…who will step out of their comfort zones and challenge those around them to deny their self-interest for the greater good.
*Chuck Colson, Chuck Colson Speaks (Uhrichsville, Promise Press, 2000), 149