Does Everyone Need To Be A Leader?

Zarifah Zahirah | Marketing Intern | Leadership

There are usually two types of people when it comes to being given the opportunity to lead. One type welcomes it, while another gives excuses for why they are not fit for the job.

In a recent webinar entitled “Leading Self and Others” hosted for the staff at Asia School of Business, Muhammad Sabri Rawi, Senior Lecturer at Asia School of Business, spoke of an empirical view on what leadership is and what it means to be a leader. He asserts that everyone can lead, whether or not they have a title. Understanding this is important in creating impact and giving meaning to one’s life.

Some of my key takeaways from this relatable session included these insights:


Celebrate Even The Small, Personal Purpose

To most people, position, power, fame, and fortune are the definition of leadership, happiness, and success. Those are the things people spend most of their life in pursuit of and they believe without those four things, they can’t be a leader, be happy, or be successful.

When people talk about leaders, most would think of known figures such as Gandhi who managed to liberate India. And when they think of the leader’s accomplishments in relation to their own, the comparison makes them feel small and discouraged to try and fill such big shoes. However, that mentality does no good to anyone!

The truth is, leadership can come from anyone. What makes someone a leader is the vision they have and the will to accomplish that vision. The goal may not be significant, and it may not even be deemed as something everyone should aim for. It doesn’t matter; what matters is that the goal aligns with you personally.

“Leadership is very, very personal. You can lead the world if you have to or you can just lead yourself if you want to,” said Sabri. The act of guiding can be about anything and anyone. If you find yourself unequipped to tackle big issues (such as reforming the world), find ones that are within your capacity. Who’s to say your ‘small’ vision is not good enough?


Overcoming Misconceptions and Pushback

This brings us to another topic: the many false assumptions about leadership. More often than not, we hear phrases such as, “Leaders are born not made,” “Leadership is about having the right personality traits”, or “I don’t have it in me to be a leader.”

Sabri brought forth an interesting point: “There is no correlation between leadership and personality traits.” The former is not restricted to one type of person or a set of characteristic must-haves. Leadership comes in many shapes and sizes; it may even come from unexpected sources such as the quiet kid in the back. These misconceptions are often what holds people back from grabbing that leadership opportunity that could very well change them and their surroundings.

Another factor that holds us back in taking on new projects are the naysayers (which often come from a place of good intentions). Those who love us the most usually don’t want us to fail – so they often give us the cons of pursuing a course action and consequently make us doubt ourselves. However, that should not be the case! When people discourage you, have the passion, perseverance and patience to pursue your dreams anyway!


Harnessing Your Leadership Energy

But how can we accomplish our goals when so many are saying we can’t?

This is where leadership energy needs to be tapped and solidified. You need to establish your values. Ask yourself: What is most important to me? What issues do I find abhorrent and how strongly do I feel about it?

With a value system in place, you start to see situations that go against what you believe in and therefore are more likely to have a purpose to overcome that situation. When you see a discrepancy that’s happening in your life and you decide to do something about it, that is when the leader in you surfaces.

Everyone has a purpose, big or small. It is entirely dependent on how you choose to look at it. Purpose is not a big cause or mission you have to achieve; it’s an approach that permeates everything you do. It is the attitude you bring to the job you are doing. For instance, Sabri told us the story of how his friend, a bus driver, told him that his job was a very important one, as there are people that depend on him to get somewhere. Without him doing his job right, people would be late to their own purpose. The work you do may seem small, but it really isn’t when you think of the impact it has on others.

During his talk, Sabri quoted Martin Luther King Jr., who famously said:

“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.”


Followership Is Just As Important As Leadership

With that being said, must you be a leader? Well, followership is a kind of leadership too! Everyone has a person they have to manage. The head of a department has a higher up, the CEO has board members, and even the Prime Minister answers to someone! Even if you have no one to manage, you still have to manage yourself. As Sabri stated, “You still have to lead yourself and the most important and difficult people for you to lead are three people; I, me, and myself.”

So what does leading yourself entail? You have to keep yourself accountable not just in achieving your goals but in your daily life. It involves doing the things you’re supposed to do, not procrastinating, being mindful when you speak, and many other small acts of self-discipline. Practicing self-control when you’re in an infuriating situation instead of an act of self-gratification is an act of leadership as you are able to take control of your emotions. “At the very least, you have to lead yourself,” said Sabri.

If you are able to manage yourself well, the attitude you bring to your work helps your leader to be a better one too, through your ability to manage up! With this perspective in mind, everyone is a leader. Whether you are leading others or are simply leading yourself, you are a leader. The question is: Are you a good one?