In the aftermath of the Seahawks win of the 2014 Super Bowl, it seems appropriate to quote Russell Wilson, its star quarterback. When asked what motivated him to push for the major win, he replied, “I have to quote my dad here who said, ‘why not you?” In short, somebody has to do it, so why shouldn’t that be you?
It made me think on the never-ending debate on whether leaders are born or made. For all the talk of leaders being those who come into the world already on the edge, pushing the limit, taking charge, there are other pathways to leadership.
The Born Leader
I had the fun and honor of working for Jeff Bezos in the early Amazon.com days. Watching how he so automatically stepped up, questioned and took charge, I suspect he is one of those who is so hard wired to be a leader that shortly after his delivery he presented his mother’s obstetrician with instructions on how to do a better job next time. He couldn’t help himself.
On the other hand, I have met over the years legions of people who stumbled into leadership as a result of unforeseen circumstances:
The Cultivated Leader
The CEO suddenly has a stroke and the heretofore introverted CFO has to step in, moving outside of her comfort zone into the highly demanding and ambiguous world of spearheading a company vision.
The dedicated family doctor who never saw his life beyond that of a caring, excellent physician to each of his patients; that is, until one day his 18-year-old son fell to his death in a climbing accident, leaving behind a grieving family and a dream of being a teacher of medicine. That grieving father decided to honor his son’s memory by stepping into his son’s dreams. He founded the first holistic medicine based family clinic in Seattle, Washington. Then he went on to the University of Kentucky where he led the teaching of others in the delivery of holistic family medicine.
In each story rises a common thread. Regardless of how each person got there, he or she rose up to meet the challenge because it had to be somebody, and that somebody was “them.”
Believing that somebody needs to take charge, dream and carry others forward in that dream is a fundamental tenant of leadership. That is what leads to greater things. That is what I heard Russell Wilson say. If you want something and apply yourself with hard work and discipline, as Russell Wilson did, you can win. It is what I see successful leaders do. Self-belief is power. Somebody has to step in and lead the dream. Why not you?