Leadership is a choice, not a position.

A common misconception of leadership is that you have to wait to lead until you are given a position. This is entirely false. In fact, leadership is tarnished by those who are placed in "leadership" positions without first being leaders.

If you are waiting for that new position, or promotion, or permission to lead, you are misunderstanding the nature of leadership. You don't become a leader by being made a leader.

So is leadership innate? Are some born leaders and the rest of us had better get used to following? Not at all. There is no such thing as a born leader. Rather, those who lead from a young age have a combination of the right opportunities and the traits to take advantage of them. Neither of these assets guarantees leadership prowess, nor do they exclude those who initially lack them. Instead, leadership is like money; you can grow it, invest it, and maximize it, or waste, mismanage and lose it. The choice is yours.

The key word is CHOICE. To be a leader, you choose to lead. In other words, your choices make you a leader. 

The first choice is to stop excusing yourself by blaming, or hiding behind, others. When you choose to lead, you are bringing yourself to the table. You bring your strengths and weaknesses, you bring your experiences (good and bad), you bring your learning, you bring your uncertainties and fears, and you place them on the table for the sake of the team or setting in which you choose to lead. Leaders cannot use others as a reason for not offering themselves. 

A second choice a leader makes is to learn to lead. You never stop learning, unless you stop leading. Learn from those who lead you, learn from those around you, learn from those you lead. Most of all, learn from those who know more than you!

And a third choice follows: choose truth-tellers. A wise leader who mentored me once said: "If you can find someone who will tell you the truth, pay them!" Truth-tellers come in different forms: data, current trends, 360° review, learning and experience, to name a few. But the most valuable truth teller is an unbiased person who knows you and wants you to succeed as a leader. Those are the people to cultivate in your life! Watch for counterfeit truth tellers: those who tell you what you want to hear, or those who tell you their version of the truth for their advantage, to help you fail. 

Having the courage to choose trustworthy truth tellers is a quality that sets great leaders apart.

There are many more choices of leadership, but these three have been the most prominent in my experience. Which choice challenges you the most? Why not make it (or renew it) today?