Why Become a Leader?
A Small Story
In 7th grade, my class went on an overnight field trip to a place called Bradford Woods for a “team building retreat.” Throughout the trip, we partook in various team building exercises that included obstacle courses, puzzles, and relay races. I remember one activity that involved balancing multiple people on a square-shaped plank on top of a ball with the goal of keeping all four corners off the ground for ten consecutive seconds.
For what seemed like hours (probably more like 20 minutes), we jumped on and off, yelling at each other as the teachers stood by and let us work things out for ourselves. At one point, I realized that if two people of similar size stood on opposite sides of the square at the exact same time, it would stay off the ground. I decided to take control of the situation and convinced everyone to follow my lead. Within 5 minutes we had completed the task!
Looking back, this is what I learned that day:
A leader is not necessarily someone of exceptional intelligence or with an ultra-charismatic personality. A leader is someone who sees a problem or lacking, realizes that they are the only one who can fix it, and takes responsibility for doing so.
A leader takes a tough situation and does their best to make good out of it.
A Big Story
When Jay Feinberg, a 22-year old analyst for the Federal Reserve, was told he would need a bone marrow transplant to survive, he was devastated. But when it proved extremely difficult to locate a match (55,000 people were tested and four years passed before a match was found), he became determined to make it easier for others needing bone marrow to find matches.
Though he could have easily returned to a successful career in the financial sector, Jay decided to devote his life to encouraging people to register for bone marrow registries around the world, eventually founding The Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation.
Jay realized there was a major lack of registered bone marrow donors and took responsibility to remedy the situation. He was faced with a challenge, overcame it, and used that experience to help others.
What’s Your Story?
Both stories—the very ordinary story of my 7th grade team building experience, and the extraordinary story of Jay Feinberg serve as examples of individuals stepping up to fill a lack (even if that was not the original plan).
In our lives, we are faced with countless opportunities to exhibit leadership. Sometimes, we welcome these opportunities as the next steps in our career paths. Other times, we cringe at the idea of acting upon these opportunities, but take responsibility and move forward nonetheless. Sometimes these opportunities are small, and sometimes they are life-changing.
Why become a leader? Not for pride, not for honor, not even for money. Become a leader because you have no choice, because you know that you are the right person for the job, and because you want to (and you will!) make a difference in the world.