Leadership requires courage.
It requires that you do not worry about whether or not you are going to be liked for your decisions.
You cannot lead without taking a stand and holding it. No one ever lead a charge by saying to the troops, “I hope this works. Let me know how you feel about it and maybe we can try another way next time, if you make it.”
Doing things by consensus makes leadership difficult. The more people, the more difficult. Getting three people to agree on something is hard but getting 30 people is extremely challenging. Getting 300 people to agree on something is nearly impossible unless (and this is the kicker) you involve them emotionally. Emotional fervor can be enough to get masses of people to all go in one direction, even if that direction is foolish. Remember WWII?
In order to lead you have to know where you are going and how you are going to get there (even if you have to adjust that pathway as you proceed). You need to have a vision of what you want to accomplish and not let anything stand in your way.
Leaders risk failure, they risk ridicule, they risk scrutiny, they risk being ostracized. They are often seen as being “too” something: disturbing, egotistical, overwhelming, over-the-top.
Meek individuals might look up to someone who has leadership capabilities but, if they have to deal with the person for a while, they can also end up resenting the very characteristics they at first admired. No one who has “made a name” for him or herself has done so by being “nice” and “cooperative” at every moment. When you get to a certain level of visibility or responsibility, what comes with the territory is resistance, resentment and pushback. Only the very wealthy and powerful can hire “spin doctors” to fix the damage done to their reputations by those who were jealous, resentful and envious.
Leadership is even more complicated if you are female.
The image that women should remain in the home, baking pies, making babies and smiling at the hubby, persists in our culture, regardless of whatever strides have been made (and many have). Powerful women are rare and the statistics are available to prove how few women survive to rise to the highest levels of our society. Women, unless they have protection available in the above mentioned form of wealth which can be used to hire outside support, or connections with men who have power who can “lift them up” are trained early to be “cooperative, kind and polite”. These qualities don’t help to win a battle.
Yes, there is a middle ground between being a crazed maniac who makes enormous noise and says “my way or the highway”, and someone who is quiet, shy, introverted, and stays at home rather than interact with others in any but the most limited manner. That middle ground, however, isn’t always easy to locate.
Most people will look the other way when approached by a leader seeking change. They realize that such a person will disturb the status quo and shake things up. It is easier to run away, do nothing, and cluck about the situation than to jump into the fray. It is easier to criticize any individual who takes an unpopular stand, in the face of great opposition, even if the cause is obviously based on gaining the greater good. Going back as far as you like, anyone who came along to change “the way things are” has been attacked, jailed, or sometimes (think Joan of Arc) killed, even though later the person became revered.
If you would be a leader in your profession, your social group or your community, you have to stick your neck out, take a stand, go forward against opposition, and hold a clear vision in your mind of where you are going and why you want to get there. You will have to be strong enough to face nasty opposition and even situations that could imperil your health and well-being, carrying within you the deep conviction to go for the long haul, even if you are completely alone. You have to find a way to do things that have integrity, honesty, and decency at their core, even if it seems that holding to those values is incompatible with getting there. You cannot ever sacrifice doing it the right way for making a shortcut for the sake of convenience.
Leadership is developed.
Most people who hold positions of leadership are not leaders. They fall into circumstances that allow them to rise to the top of the heap by happenstance. True leaders emerge, not from the whiners and complainers, not from the quiet and reticent, but from the battlefield, bruised but not defeated. You will know one when you see one, but look hard as they are few and far between.