Why You're Not A Leader

As application season starts again for honor societies, internships, jobs, and interviews one guaranteed question will be regarding how you are a leader. Maybe you will have to explain something you did that showed leadership, maybe you will have to define what leadership means to you, or in some way demonstrate that you yourself are the leader this application or position is looking for. That’s great and all, but it is completely useless. Nothing aggravates me more than poorly worded questions whose answers show nothing more than a rehearsed culturally reflective and more likely than not incorrect truth. The problem with all this leadership talk is that you and I are not leaders. We may think we are because of the societal trend that says we are, but when it comes down to it, we’re not.

Leaders are those willing to stand in front of the masses and say the way they believe the world should work and be, no matter the consequence. A leader is the person who marches in front of the army because they are so dedicated to the cause they’re not only willing to send men to war but also send themselves. Leaders are far and few between. They are people who not only speak but listen and hear what others have to say. Leaders know when it’s time to act and when it is time to sit down. Being a leader implies you have a larger goal in mind that goes beyond you and your life and that you have an idea that you wish to sustain the future with.

We are people and statistically speaking we are just part of the masses. You’re not a leader because you’re “the president” of some random club on campus. You’re not a leader because you happen to be the office manager or company CEO. You may be someone who can handle responsibilities, someone who is organized, someone who can manage people or pitch ideas to a room, but you’re not a leader. I’m not saying you shouldn’t put on your application that you can do all the above qualities if you can nor am I saying having these qualities makes you less of a person. What I am saying is twofold.

First you should be ok with the skills and qualities you have and not feel as though you need to apply labels of “leader” to yourself unless you’ve actually been in military combat and lead a group of people or lead the civil rights or feminist movements…or done something that would actually designate you as a leader. Secondly, companies and people need to stop looking for “leaders” and look for people. In reality companies don’t want leaders, they want people who will do what they’re told. They want mindless blobs that fill space and follow orders to get required work done. Leaders have the ability to think on their own, and though in theory that’s nice and all, the vast majority of businesses and societies want you to think inside the box they have given you. They award you and praise you with the word leader as if pretending everyone is a leader will pacify the people and make them fall in line. You could convince me that people have leadership qualities, but we are for the most part not leaders, hell half of us don’t even know how think without someone helping them. So as you fill out applications and boast about how you too are a leader in a society saturated with leaders, know that you’re playing into a misleading game. I suppose a whole room of leaders today never actually go anywhere now do they, except maybe to the grave believing they were something they never were.