Some people are born to lead. Most people aren’t.
The problem, I’ve found, is that the non-leaders don’t seem to understand their many shortcomings.
I’m not just talking about work or in the many volunteer groups that we’ve been a part of through the years. There is a much bigger picture. I’m talking about everything from the oldest sibling to the 22-year-old running the late night show at the local Burger King. And the in-betweens — such as the school teacher or the Sunday school teacher.
Poor leadership abounds and it chaps my hide.
Before I go full-throttle into my rant, I think it’s prudent to offer up a little basis. Wherever we work, shop or play, there’s always someone in charge. Occasionally, the person in charge is a leader. But more often they are managers. What’s the difference?
Because I said so
The manager’s primary goal, no matter the venue, is to assert authority. We’ve all experienced that boss (or volunteer boss) who, when everything is chugging along nicely, sticks his nose into it and messes up a good thing.
‘I need you to report to me daily what you’re doing,’ the editor told me.
‘Why?’ I asked. ‘I’ve never missed a deadline and my stories regularly are 1A.’
‘Because,’ she responded with a serious look, ‘That’s what I’m requiring now.’
‘OK. So, what do you want to know?’
‘Everything,’ she said.
As it went, that person forever lost my respect. Sure. I reported in — even when I pulled in to the local McDonald’s to wash my face. Fact is, there were a couple of reporters sloughing off. I wasn’t one of them. Anyone who was anything more than a manager would have dealt with it differently. Her loss.
Oh, yes. The differences between leaders and managers are far from subtle. The manager is in the middle of the action, instructing everyone at every step — very much like Lucy van Pelt (Peanuts). The leader, meanwhile, sits atop the hill and allows the trained troops to do their jobs.
Strong desire? Caveat emptor!
One of the great military leaders in U.S. history, Gen. Robert E. Lee, didn’t really want to be in charge of the Confederate troops. It’s true. He was essentially guilted into the job. President George Washington also wasn’t all that keen on being the first president.
So, why should we be uncomfortable with people who truly want to be in charge?
Just think Adolph Hitler.
Now, I’m not saying that the assistant manager at the Highway 7 Dairy Queen is an evil tyrant who wants to rule the world. What I am saying is that he wants to spend his time correcting people about the number of salt shakes to be added to the fries, or whether the toilet paper should be under or over.
Meanwhile, the drive-thru is backed up by six cars.
The same thing happened to that little half-German guy. He was so worried — paranoid — that he tried to run it all … until he (fortunately) ran it into the ground. Adolph was merely a poorly coiffed schlemiel with a caustic voice. But he sure as hell managed to ruin a lot of people in the most unthinkable of ways.
Follow the leader
Have you ever noticed that no one tends to truly follow that guy who wants to be in charge? Whether he’s the former booster club president trying to recapture his own personal glory, or the guy who’s telling you that you can’t cut ham on the Kosher slicer.
We listen. We tend to oblige them for a little while. Then ultimately we laugh and move on. Those guys, even with their best efforts to become memorialized, end up becoming the what not to do and how not to do it chapters in future handbooks.
Much of the time, these folks cause little damage. But, as millions of people can attest, even a loudmouthed nerd with a huge inferiority complex and a lamebrain mustache is capable of wreaking mass havoc. And that is likely because of the lemmings — the non-thinkers — who are willing to jump off the cliff on command. Shame on those people. I pity them.
Henry Miller once wrote: ‘The real leader has no need to lead—he is content to point the way.’
The real leader also listens much more than he speaks. And apologizes when he has erred. A true leader is rarely concerned with having the last word or seeing a bronze cast of his bust enclosed in glass.
And that’s why the real leader is just that. A real leader.
Who are you following?
If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+. — Special thanks to Megan E. Hawkins at The Underground Writer for editing this piece.
I am often teased by friends for my penchant for the gooey old school Tex-Mex at one particular local restaurant. As I mention in my Yelp review, it’s one of those places that takes me back to my childhood — long before Tex-Mex joints began grilling everything and getting overly creative with the salsas.
It used to be that you could find delicious Truck Stop Enchiladas at Texas convenience stores, mom & pop dives … and truck stops. You’ll rarely these days see them listed that way on a menu. Instead, most restaurants refer to cheese-filled corn tortillas covered with chile con carne as Cheese Enchiladas.
Truck Stop Enchiladas
12 – Corn tortillas
1 lb – Mild cheddar, shredded
1 batch – Chile con Carne
Small Onion, chopped (optional)
Oil, for cooking
Heat ¼ inch of oil in a skillet until almost smoking. Using tongs, dip a tortilla into the hot oil for 5 seconds, turn it over for 5 more, lift it and let the oil drip back into the pan. Dip the tortilla into the warm chile con carne until covered, then remove to a greased baking dish. Put two tablespoons of cheese on the tortilla, roll it and place it seam side down in a 13×9 baking dish. Repeat. Pour the remaining chile con carne over the enchiladas, top with grated cheese and finely chopped raw onion, and heat in a 400F oven for 10 minutes or until the top is melted and the dish is bubbling. Serve immediately with pinto beans and Tex-Mex Rice. Makes 12 enchiladas, or six servings.