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Line Leading is Leading Us Astray

Line Leading is Leading Us Astray

Life is full of big moments.

The moment you find the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, the moment you buy your first house (OK, maybe not in this economy), and even the moment you snag your first job.

As important as these moments are, nothing means more than a single moment that comes way before any of us are ready:

The first time your teacher chooses you to be the line leader of your preschool class.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. After hearing your name, your stomach dropped, you thought you were going to poop your pants, and you suddenly started sweating more than that one time your parents accidentally left you in the car during your summer vacation to Disney World.

Who wouldn’t be nervous?! For many, becoming line leader thrusts us into our first high-pressure experience with leadership. After all, how is the rest of your class supposed to find the lunchroom without your keen sense of exploration, your precise internal compass, or your ability to walk a straight line, which will undoubtedly serve you well in the future?

Unfortunately, we are so preoccupied as children, we don’t realize how false this depiction of leadership is in the moment. When we grow up, we realize leadership is much more than forcing others to fall in line and blindly following our every step.

If only our four-year-old selves had access to Harvard Business Review, Forbes Magazine, or even a LinkedIn profile, they would quickly learn that leadership requires much more than that internal compass we were so proud of.

In today’s world, leadership can take many forms, ranging from leader of the free world to leader of the classroom. No matter who and where you’re leading, there are several important characteristics needed in order to effectively lead others:

Accountable – I don’t know about you, but I always found myself doubting my teacher’s competence whenever they chose that one bad apple to be line leader. That one little turd that couldn’t keep his hands to himself, stuck gum in someone’s hair, and always ended up in the principal’s office. Come to think of it, he didn’t even know how to get to the principal’s office on his own! As an adult, you have to be able to effectively lead yourself before you have any hope of leading others.

Communicative – Unfortunately, pointing to your open mouth as an adult won’t cut it when telling your team it’s time for lunch. Clearly communicating with the people you’re leading helps to manage expectations as well as keep everyone aligned. This is definitely one of those skills that will help prevent problems from happening in the first place.

Humility – This is something we could all use a little more of, especially if we aim to lead others. As with most things in life, actions will always speak louder than words. Just like in preschool, no one cares if you can run the fastest, talk the loudest, or jump the highest. What matters more is your personal contribution to the rest of the class (or team). Instead of telling everyone how hardworking you are, let them tell you.

Vulnerability – Another tough one. No one likes to appear weak, especially in front of people who look to you for guidance. However, it’s 2018 and we all know what overcompensation looks like. Just like that bully who always projected onto others, a bad leader refuses to admit when they are wrong. Instead, showing vulnerability communicates confidence in your own skin to the rest of your team.

These are only a few traits that seem to be overlooked as children. Unfortunately, there are plenty of other lessons we tend to learn later on in life thanks to the school of hard knocks.

Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to have more faith in kids than most. Instead of rewarding good behavior with blind leadership, why not give them more “real world” opportunities to actually lead their peers? This could be as “simple” as leading a group project or turning an interest of theirs into a lesson plan for the class.

Whatever it is, it needs to reflect what actually happens in the world outside of the classroom. Otherwise, we’ll continue creating “leaders” that expect everyone else to simply fall in line.

How you do define leadership in today’s world? What would you add to the above list?

This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on leadership from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.

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William is a freelance designer, writer, and founder of Collide, a company that is creating a better, deeper way to connect with others over shared ideas and skills. He is passionate about turning ideas into action and helping others do the same. When not working, William leads a double life as a beatboxer in One Too Many, St. Louis' premiere all-male a cappella group.

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