What Really Makes You A Leader
By Alessandra Allen, Ambassador Girl Scout & Gold Awardee
Rowdy kids and a desperate teacher surround a girl in a 5th grade class. There is an important lesson on their agenda, but the teacher can’t get the children to calm down long enough to start. The girl sees the distress written on her teacher’s face and understands what she must do. She stands up on her desk and with a quick clap of her hands, she has succeeded in her goal: silencing the classroom. Even when the teacher lifts her off the desk with a huff, the girl can feel his appreciation and relief. She knows she has done right.
The same girl is walking home from school later that day, taking her time to enjoy the scenic route. Waiting for the streetlight to change, she catches a movement in the corner of her eye. Turning, she’s able to catch the back of the woman’s head as a crumpled paper bag is thrown into a trashcan, clearly missing the intended target. The woman hesitates for just a second before continuing to walk away. The girl is now faced with a choice of her own. The streetlight turns, leaving her with only a few seconds to decide if she hopes to cross the street. Staring at the trashcan once more, she shoots forward to pick up the trash and dump it in its proper place. As she runs across the street to avoid losing the light, the girl smiles at the fact that she has helped preserve the beauty of nature.
Now, in which of these situations was she being a leader?
Let’s start off with what we know. This girl climbs on desks, silences classrooms with just a clap, and is a lover of the planet. But when exactly could we pinpoint a moment in these two stories where she was showing true leadership? Most people would choose the first story because she has proved to everyone around her that she can command an audience. The truth is, the girl shows leadership in both stories.
To understand this argument better, we first have to know what a leader actually is. The definition of a leader (at least according to my iPhone) is the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country. Basically, it’s a person who assumes the role of head honcho when everyone else is running around like chickens without their heads. Yet, this definition reveals one particular flaw that ebbs its way into society’s teaching of what makes you a “true” leader. A leader is not just a person who leads others, but is someone who is willing to take on the responsibility of doing something others dare not to.
Let me explain the difference. The original definition insinuates that to be a leader, you must have people following you before you can earn that title; you have to be the mother duck leading all her little ducklings. The real definition, though, shows that as long as you are willing to stand up and take charge of something, you’re already a leader. You might not have anyone following your example right away or willing to change, but even if you stand alone, you stand with power.