be a leader not a follower

Raising Your Son to Be a Leader, Not a Follower

With his AK-47, Mohammed Gulab patrolled a mountain in an Afghanistan village called Sabray, in the midst of intense warfare between the U.S. military and Taliban forces in June 2005. Some villagers had relatives fighting for the Taliban. Others sided with the U.S. As Gulab roamed, he made a discovery that would change his life: a Navy SEAL, who had been shot, had shrapnel wounds in both legs, had broken several vertebrae, and was dying of thirst. Gulab lives by an honor code called Pashtunwali, which requires him to show extreme hospitality to visitors, regardless of their background; to protect visitors from their enemies by any means necessary; and to bravely protect their property from any invasion. So he decided to help the American, whose name is Marcus Luttrell and whose story is in the book turned movie Lone Survivor.

The Taliban demanded that Gulab turn Luttrell over. Gulab refused, even when the Taliban threatened the lives of his wife and children. Gulab’s courage saved Luttrell’s life. And it sets a prime example for all leaders. Recently, when someone told me he sees leadership potential in my son, I thought of Gulab. Because I hope to raise my son to be a leader, not a follower. I hope to raise him to have the same discipline, courage, and honor that Gulab showed. And he will—if he lives by these 5 important principles.

1. Be willing to stand apart.

The higher leaders rise in the ranks, the heavier the responsibility they carry, the louder the criticism, and the more lonely life gets. But strong leaders can step forward with courage, conviction, and a willingness to take a stand when others won’t. They set a standard for others to reach. That’s the difference between a leader and the crowd. Being a part of the crowd may provide a sense of security. But leadership requires the bravery to step out where it is unsafe. All Pro Dad NFL Spokesman Tony Dungy calls it being uncommon.

2. Be trustworthy.

In order to be an effective leader, others must believe in you. So a leader has to earn trust. That requires a person to consistently and scrupulously follow through on promises and to tell the truth. Your reliability should be predictable. When it’s not, you lose credibility. And when you lose that, you lose your voice.

3. Invest in, care for, and empower others.

In my opinion, no leader in history modeled this better than Jesus of Nazareth. Leadership is not about empowering oneself. It’s about serving others. The best way to inspire people to be part of a mission is to know their gifts and passions and then position them to use those gifts and passions. If you want to be a person of influence, you need to see where people are today, where they could be, and where they want to be. Then you have to help them get there.

4. Define reality.

In his book The Art of Leadership, Max Dupree wrote that the first responsibility of every leader is to define reality. The truth can be difficult to confront—particularly the truth about ourselves. If you don’t believe me, try playing a round of golf without taking a gimme putt or a mulligan. You find out your actual level of play quickly. A true leader sees himself as he actually is (the good and the bad) and not how he wishes to be seen. Facing the truth, however ugly it may be, is essential. A leader seeks feedback to gain a clearer picture of reality rather than avoiding it. Growth, change, innovation, and solutions are only possible when you have a firm understanding and acceptance of the current state of affairs.

5. Never stop learning.

A good leader must first be a follower. Find people who have the leadership qualities you want and learn from them. Then, never stop learning. NFL Coach Dick Vermeil said that the time he spent as a broadcaster prepared him to be a better coach because he was able to observe other coaches and see how they led. At that time, he was already a champion at the collegiate level and had taken the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl. Yet he never stopped learning and growing. That enabled him to come back to coaching and win a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams. Because he embraced humbly learning from others, he reached an even higher level of excellence.

Earn some points: If you are married, share this iMOM article with your wife, to help her relationship with your son: Harvard Study Finds Warm Mothers Have Successful Sons.

Sound off: What leadership principles would you teach your child?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Who is a leader you admire?”