Calling Leaders - This Means YouPosted 3/1/2007
By Charlie Elder, AAM, Chairman
If you ask most people if they consider themselves leaders, the general response is "no." In reality, just about everyone has a circle of influence - a group of people who listen to you and are influenced by your actions or conversation. Your circle may be small, large or worldwide and it is important regardless of the size.
There is a common thought that great leaders are born with natural abilities the rest of us don't have. Even though that occurs, I believe it is the exception rather than the rule. I think great leaders are developed through training, experience and mentors. Often people mistake charisma with leadership. I have encountered many people with great charisma who can draw a crowd for a time, but they often prove to be poor and ineffective leaders.
The past two years I have attended a leadership conference that brings in some impressive leaders. Some of this year's attendees were Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, both who are presidential hopefuls; Ed Meese, former U.S. attorney general; James Malva, CEO of ConocoPhillips; Gen. Charles Krulak, former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps; and many others.
It is interesting to meet these people who we often see on the nightly news and talk with them in an informal setting - discussing national and international issues that affect our families each day. The thing that amazes me is how different leaders are. They come in all sizes, shapes, ages, personalities and viewpoints, and are still effective leaders. Almost all of them have developed their leadership style and ability over time with the help of others.
Several years ago, a good friend told me of a conversation he had with his son, who was in high school and was a good student and a good athlete. He and some other boys got into trouble at school one day. His teacher called my friend to explain the incident and told him his son was a leader and the other boys followed him. He had the opportunity to lead them in a positive direction or a negative direction. That night, he talked with his son and relayed what the teacher said about his leadership ability. His son apologized for getting into trouble and then looked up at his father and said, "Daddy, I don't want to be a leader." All of us feel that way at times, but we still have an impact on what other people do whether we want to or not.
If you own or operate a business, you are a leader and much of the success of your business depends on your leadership skills. The always-present question is: "When I lead, will they follow?" That question strikes fear in many people because they feel ill-equipped to lead, mainly because their leadership skills have never been developed. Kelly Bennett, one of our AMI instructors, recognized this also and recently developed an AMI course on leadership. This is a great start, as I feel we need more in-depth leadership training for our industry.
Bob Redding, our Washington D.C. representative, contacted me about the possibility of developing a leadership course similar to what the Chamber of Commerce uses to develop leaders. A class of 10 to 20 people committed to 12 months of leadership training on a variety of subjects. Currently it is just a concept to discuss, but I'm very interested in what our members think. We don't view this like the Marines who only want "a few good men." We want many good men and women to develop their skills and lead our industry into a bright, successful future.
Please e-mail your thoughts and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
On a final note, May 3-5 our industry leaders will be meeting in Nashville, Tenn., for the ASA Annual Convention. I invite you all to attend and get involved in leadership roles in our industry.
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