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When we say "leader", we mean someone who serves people and solves problems. When I meet an educator in an elevator and we talk for five minutes, I tell them: “We just want them to graduate knowing how to solve problems and serve people”. And they all say: “Yes, that's what I want." Reading, writing and mathematics are necessary, but we need people with life skills, who are able to relate to people and lead teams, communicate well, transmit ideas, etc. We do a lot of work internationally, and once we were translating a book into another language, and the word "leader" was badly translated. They used the term "power”, they said it was “someone who has power”. We believe that power often emerges from leadership, and gaining influence. But it starts with the desire to serve people and solve problems. And when we do this, we normally earn the right to influence other people.
Leaders have a vision for the future. It’s a picture of a preferred future they hold in their mind today. And they have laid out the steps to follow to make this vision a reality. They can help others to understand that it can be done. Most people don't set out these steps. They say: “Yes, I like that vision. How can we make it a reality?”. And most people don't know how to do it. I believe that a leader, by their very nature, must have good people skills. Personally, I cannot separate leadership and vision. We have to create a generation with good people skills. That's very difficult to do if you've always got your cell phone in your hand. That is why we have to switch them off. You have to switch them off to gain some emotional intelligence. And finally, I would say that leaders have to be courageous by nature. The difference between a leader and a director, and both are necessary, is that leaders do things that require courage. Leaders are in charge. Actually, when I describe a leader to students, I often say this: “If you are not prepared to do what you ask of others, don't even bother. You have to do it yourself before you ask someone else to do it.” I know it sounds like a cliche and something obvious, but there are many leaders who just give orders, but who are not willing to do themselves what they are asking others to do.
Everybody needs training, even a natural born leader. Because if I am a natural born leader, I have a charged personality, I am motivated… Maybe I have an attention deficit, I don't know, but I have a lot of energy. But even so, I still need training, I need to learn patience when the team is working more slowly that I would like. So training is necessary for both, but I always say this: I believe that there are two kinds of leaders in the world, and everyone fits into one of these two kinds. We might be a born leader or a leader by circumstance. Habitual leaders are the ones who lead out of habit. They are natural born leaders. They’re the kids who take over the kickball game at recess. I believe they represent about 10-15% of the population. The other eighty-five or ninety per cent of us are what I call “situational leaders”. These people would say: “I don't consider myself to be a great leader, but if I am in the right situation—one that matches my gifts, passions and strengths, then I know what to do”. We've all seen young people at school or university who are quiet and shy. But when you put them in front of a mixing table or somewhere else, you go: “Wow, they're so talented! What happened?” What's happened is that they have found their situation. I believe that one of our jobs as parents, educators and business people is to help this new generation to find their situation. And when we do, then I believe that we all have a leader inside us. Maybe not to manage a large company, or to be the president of a country, but there is a place where they are gifted to have influence.