What does it take to be a leader?
In tribal culture, the Chief was an imposing figure. Tall, muscular, covered in scars…but most impressive was what the Chief wore upon his head. While many of the warriors in the tribe wore one, two, or three feathers, the Chief wore close to a hundred. Each represented acts of bravery, acts of selflessness, and all the things the Chief had done to help the tribe. The Chief was a leader, the boss, the top dog, and everyone respected the Chief.
Just as the Native Americans rewarded bravery, skill and intelligence with feathers in the headdress, you too can wear your own feathers.
You might first think of qualifications and certificates as your own personal feathers – a degree in a particular discipline, or even a certificate to show how far you can swim. While these are good indicators of your abilities, they are not the only way to win feathers, and not the only way to be a leader.
Have you ever started a company? Or have you ever made a decision where you were afraid something may go wrong? Have you ever spent a moment, balanced on that knife edge, where a move one way ensures victory, but a wrong move ensures defeat?
And you came through all of it OK?
These are signs of bravery. Making that decision, starting that business, choosing the left path – that’s how you get ahead, that’s how you make it work. That’s what makes you brave.
In the same situation, the vast majority of people would take the safe option, the 9-to-5, the easy path. Why? BECAUSE it is easy. When there is no danger of failure, no bravery is needed, and the masses will continue down this route.
But if you don’t take the safe option, and take the risk, the rewards can be much greater. The business owner always makes more than the employee – if he didn’t, the business wouldn’t work. And when he is brave again, and delegates some of his workload and works smarter, he can enjoy his life by taking a vacation…or never coming back to the office at all. If he isn’t brave, he turns up every single day at 8am, and never gets on with living his life.
The feathers in this case include being seen as a success; while the man in the office for 365 days a year may have money in the bank, the man who only checks in remotely twice a week lives a far happier life as he is free to do as he chooses.
Take a tomato. Slice it thinly. Careful of your fingers.
Watch a great chef take a tomato and chop it thinly. His slices are thinner than yours, and he did it faster than you could. He has a skill that you don’t possess, and is therefore recognised as a master in his field.
Could you be a master in your field? Do you have a great skill, or at least a mediocre skill that could be improved?
The best of the best wear the feathers of skill, for they have worked hard and are better than the others. When asked to name a basketball player, many people – even today- will name Michael Jordan, as he had the skills (and therefore the feathers in his head dress). How many other basketball players from the same era could you name? How many were as good as Michael Jordan? By possessing the greater skill, which although partly inherent was greatly increased by hours of practice, Michael Jordan is recognised as a chief of basketball…just as LeBron wants to be the King today.
The bottom line is, if you put in the time and dedication to train and enhance your skills and talents, you will be recognised for it – and this goes for business skills, athletic skills, entertainment skills, and any other skill you might have or hope to gain. The more you work to enhance your skills, the greater you will become.
The warrior who stepped in front of the child and saved her from the attacking bear was brave…but was also selfless. The warrior put someone else first – is that how you treat your customers? Is that how you treat your staff? Is that how you treat your friends and family?
Remember, your business (or job…or life) isn’t just about you – it’s about the success of the business as a whole. A business needs customers to thrive, and it often needs staff to service the needs of those customers.
Sacrificing your needs for the needs of the greater good makes you worthy of a feather in your headdress.
Be a leader
Build your knowledge so that you make wise decisions. Step forth in bravery. Hone your skills and be the best. And remember, you need other people to make your business work.