Warren Bennis, author of On Becoming a Leader, once said, “The point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, and to use yourself completely – all of your gifts, skills and energies – to make your vision manifest.” This statement offers a new perspective to the idea of leadership. The focus of leaders is often on their own behaviors and style of leading, while Bennis suggests the attention should be placed on the journey. If we are to become great leaders, we must first expect maximum heart and effort from ourselves. Only then can we expect the dedication from followers. The leader’s role is to motivate followers to achieve a common goal. The greatest motivation of followers is a leader’s example.
I once heard in order to receive a desired reaction, a leader must exhibit the amount of energy he or she expects a third of from the follower. This energy can be seen in either a positive or negative light. I personally experienced a case of negative energy while working for a florist a few months back. I lasted less than a week in the toxic environment. I didn’t mind the work I was training for; actually I kind of enjoyed it. The sad part of this flower shop was behind the scenes. Yelling, swearing, and negative comments were a daily occurrence. These actions began with the owner and trickled down to the delivery boys. The air was thick with condemnation and easily detected with employer disapproval. I felt more incapable doing odds and ends that week than ever before. It was amazing to see the negativity and poor example one man set affect so many of those who saw him as a leader.
This example is one that represents a person’s lack of whole heartedness. As Bennis explains a leader must use themselves completely in order to lead by example, “to make your vision manifest.” Over my last semester of college, I had the opportunity to broaden my work with motivation, a refreshing change from the previous experience. I was assigned to a non-profit organization that helped those in the area with their struggles. Not only was the work my leader doing of great service to others, but she used her energy to carry out the vision. Her support throughout the project was immeasurable. Contrasting even my own value as a follower in each of these experiences is telling. After seeing what negative energy can do, my vision is this: to treat all with the respect and integrity humans deserve. If that were the case in the flower shop not only would my work would be valued, but I would feel validated. As a follower it became a lot easier to see the respect and integrity a leader reveals, and in turn show respect and integrity when I am a leadership example.
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