An example of leading by example
Some people are natural leaders. It might even be true that the best leaders are natural leaders. I always have respect for people who take on tough problems and can motivate others to join them. Here's an example:
One of my favorite television shows was The Wire. It was a very compelling story of what goes on behind the scenes in Baltimore, a city with plenty of troubles. There were plenty of people in leadership positions in the show, but few real leaders. In fact, almost all the characters were a realistic mix of good and bad. Well worth watching the series from start to finish on DVD if you haven't already.
Much more interesting is a real-life story that is similar -- Brick City, the story of urban renewal in Newark, NJ. This story has a real leader, mayor Cory Booker of Newark. Maybe you saw him on the Colbert Report in 2008 and 2009 (2009 interview embedded below, along with a Brick City promo video).
In watching Brick City, I found Cory Booker to be inspiring. He leads by example and builds a strong team which he needs to solve the city's very tough problems. My favorite scenes are of his police director being very tough on the cops when they aren't doing strong investigations or reporting their crime statistics accurately. These have direct parallels to The Wire.
The very best leaders have 'it' -- that special quality that makes you want to follow them. They are intelligent, articulate, and totally committed visionaries. They can connect with people at all levels but never lose sight of their overall goal. They sacrifice to get the job done and inspire others to sacrifice as well.
I've met a quite a few people in my life who have this quality in various degress, but none more than President Jimmy Carter. His post-presidency work at The Carter Center is an amazing example of dedication to helping make the world a better place. In the very brief time I've spent with him, I came away inspired to commit more time to volunteering for causes I believe in. He lives this every day, even into his mid-80s. If he has time to do this, I'm sure I do, too.
I think you can teach people leadership skills, but those can only complement the innate qualities that make someone a strong leader. Just watching Brick City makes me realize how much we can each do in order to be better leaders and make a difference.
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