The very last film produced by Walt Disney himself was a movie entitled Follow Me Boys. It was released in 1966, just a couple of weeks before Disney’s death, and starred Fred MacMurray and a very young Kurt Russell.
In the story, MacMurray’s character, Lem Siddons, is a Scout troop leader in the small town of Hickory. His ambition to become a lawyer is put on the back burner as he gets more involved in leading the boys in Troop 1. Russell plays a character who is kind of the town bully, who at first doesn’t want to be part of the troop, but after the death of his father, gets adopted by Siddons and eventually becomes a leader himself in the U.S. Army.
This movie, which I watched as a child, taught some important leadership principles that have stuck with me ever since. Lem Siddons’ leadership style wasn’t one of “hey, let me tell you what I want you to do,” it was authentic, roll-up-your-sleeves “let me show you how” leadership – which is the basis of real leadership.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
We all played Follow the Leader on the playground as a child. You remember how that was played. The leader didn’t sit over on the monkey bars and shout out commands “Go this way!” “Turn that way!” No, the leader was in the front of the line and did what he or she expected everyone else to do. That might have included going up and down steps, going down the slide, jumping over a ditch, but whatever the leader wanted everyone else to do – they did it first.
John Maxwell says “a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”
Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.
-John F. Kennedy
LEAD WITH INTEGRITY
Don’t get confused by thinking that being a boss equals being a leader. If you are in a position where you are higher up the corporate ladder than others, or maybe you have started your own business, you are a pastor, the COO of a non-profit organization, or the president of the PTA or a civic organization – you may be a boss, but it doesn’t automatically make you a leader. I’ve had many bosses who were about as far from being leaders as one could possibly be.
Leadership requires honesty. It requires integrity. It requires leading by example, which typically translates – hard work. And you cannot be a leader without being willing to continually learn. So…
NEVER STOP LEARNING
John F. Kennedy said “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
Read constantly. For me personally, there is no better way to improve your leadership skills than my reading. The last thing I do every night before I go to bed is spend at least 30-45 minutes reading.
Listen. Listen to audio recordings or podcasts of people in your field. You may not agree with everything you hear, but at least your will get some perspective on what others are doing.
Take a class. Maybe its been years since you were in school, but remember, leaders never stop learning. Go back to school. Take an online course. Brush up on a subject you haven’t studied in a while.
Bottom line is this, it is 100% impossible to be a leader until you are willing to take action. Telling someone what they should or should not be doing is not leading. Rolling up your sleeves, staying focused on the project at hand and taking steps to make it happen – that is the sign of real leadership.