FOLLOW THE LEADER TURNED UPSIDE DOWN AT DRAGON SPIRIT MARTIAL ARTS
Follow the Leader turned upside down at Dragon Spirit Martial Arts
This article was written by Mr. Peter A. Tuccino, owner and chief children's instructor at Dragon Spirit Martial Arts located in Lyndhurst, NJ. He can be reached via e-mail: [email protected]
When I was a child one of the games that the kids in the neighborhood played was called "Follow The Leader". This is a game where the person who is deemed "the leader" purposely follows a course that progressively gets more arduous with the express purpose of throwing off the "followers", so that they must drop out of the activity. To win at the game the leader must get all of those attempting to follow him or her to not be able to complete the task and achieve the objective. Hence, the child who could get everyone else to fail was crowned the leader and received the accolades from the other members of the game. For many people this game was ostensibly the extent of their leadership training. Consequently, it is no surprise that many of today's leaders in business, education, sports, martial arts, government services, religious activities, and politics are failing so miserably.
A true leader is a person that can get his or her subordinates to accomplish a task and ultimately achieve the overall objective. A leader educates, motivates, and inspires people to accomplish a goal, not through the use of coercion or intimidation, but rather through more positive means. First, the leader must set the vision of the overall goal or objective and assemble the right person or team for the job. Second, the leader must provide the means, education, and training necessary so that the individual or team is adequately prepared to do the task at hand. Third, it is the leader's responsibility to make adjustments along the way and to provide support to ensure that the person or persons involved are meeting or exceeding expectations. Lastly, the leader must bring the task to a successful completion making sure the goal has been achieved.
The best leaders lead by example. A leader is not someone who simply tells people what to do. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that "I can't hear what you are saying, because what you are doing speaks so loudly". People will naturally gravitate towards and want to follow people who are actively engaged in the process or have been down the road before. It is critically important that a leader encourage people, correct when necessary, and work tirelessly to bring out the best in those following. A good leader will find a way to get people to do their jobs better than they even thought they could do it. Moreover, a competent leader will go to bat for their subordinates, help them in every way possible, and provide tons of support along the way. Ultimately it is the leader of the group that is accountable for the success or failure of the mission.
Former senator Alan Simpson once said "If you have integrity, nothing else matters, and if you don't have integrity, nothing else matters". So many of today's leaders look for shortcuts, excuses, and too often play the blame game. Conversely a leader must hold himself/herself to a higher standard than those they wish to lead. To survive and thrive as a leader one must have an impeccable record of outstanding character. If a leader compromises on his or her values it will eventually lead to a loss of credibility and consequently will result loss of confidence. Once people lose confidence in a person's ability to lead, that person is destined for failure. Therefore a strong and successful leader's values of honesty, integrity, and decency must be above reproach. A leader must truly value people and seek to add value to them. Leaders must realize that the greatest resource we have - are human resources. No machine, computer, gadget, or device could ever replace the human intellect. The most important task of a leader is to develop those human resources available.
Many organizations are starving for good leadership. People come and go very often because they fail to do the right thing. The often don't accept responsibility or lead by example. One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is failing to connect with people. A top performing leader can understand, empathize with, and connect with his or her people on a human level. Leaders must get to know the inner workings of their key people; what motivates them, what inspires them, and which talents could be developed in them. Although in today's economy there are few jobs to come by, I believe there are tons of jobs available for those that have these talents and skills. There will always be a demand for people who could successfully lead other people.
Lastly, I would like to provide a new way to play Follow the Leader. In my version of the game it is the leader's responsibility to teach the other kids how to do a particular task. They will correct as necessary and encourage the other children to develop the skill. The winner will be the person who gets all of the other children to successfully develop whatever skill is chosen. Then, the game could justifiably be called "Follow the Leader".