A true leader doesn’t impose anything – because following is a free choice and a hard process to start.
I’ve met tens of “leaders” that actually confused leadership with dominion. They were pretty convinced that being a leader means to look like a commander in chief – and they emphasized qualities like determination and self-confidence. They slightly listened to what people had to say, unless it was useful to reach they own goals.
Still, I’ve never been sure about calling this kind of people “leaders”. Being self-confident is a great quality, but sometimes it becomes selfishness. Does a leader need to be selfish, then? There are no many people to lead if you don’t turn around to have a look at those who are following you. Then, should a leader just proceed forward, no matter what?
A few days ago, I was wondering about leaders and leadership, while I was listening to a speech of an Italian politician on TV. That reminded me about a professor of mine. We discussed a lot about sociology and politics, and I often changed my mind about some issues after having talked with him.
He was not used to persuade people about anything, but he was a careful listener. He didn’t want his students to be something they were not, but he truly “led” them in achieving their own goals. He helped them by adding the information they missed. And that’s what leadership is to me.
Explaining means helping other people to build their own thoughts about something, rationally and coherently. It is a hard task, because we are always tented to impose our point of view. How can people follow us if we help them to think on their own?
Actually, following is is a choice, not a must. To make people following us, we do have to persuade them it is worthed. Persuasion is not a binding process, but a dialogue established on the common bases of comprehension.
To make people comprehend us, we must explain our point of view. Somehow, we do tell our vision of the reality, and that helps the others to see it. All great leaders are great narrators – and narrations do inspire people.
Leadership is all about explaining because nobody can force us to be persuaded, nor to be enthusiastic about something. But anybody could give us more and more information to build our story. And we’ll be always grateful to them.