This is a series of musings from my big leather (really broken-in – to the point of broken-down) chair.
In order to lead you must have two qualities: ability and credibility. While no one wants to be led by a buffoon or to endure endless mediocrity, ability will only take one so far in the leadership realm. It is vital to have credibility with the audience. In order to follow you, they must know that you believe what you say… and live it. The word hypocrite is usually reserved to describe Christians who fail in some area of their lives, but it actually has a broader scope than that. The definition of the word according to Merriam Webster is: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings. Sometimes we all fall under that definition: the environmentalist who urges us all to “go green” as he or she continues to use aerosol products and drive vehicles which emit gases that aren’t environmentally friendly; the person who believes in budget cutting… until his job is on the chopping block; and yes, the religious zealot who believes all is fair in love and business. The thing is, people don’t want to follow a leader who isn’t credible. A few years ago, John Maxwell did a study on the most important characteristics that people desire in a leader and the number one quality was integrity – saying what we mean and meaning what we say. Living what we say! Little things matter and people are certainly watching potential leaders. The way you handle things impacts your influence. That little tantrum over not getting your way or that self-absorbed attitude you display just could be the thing robbing you of your credibility to lead.
That being said, ability matters, too. Most of us have experienced the conundrum of seeing someone put into a leadership position who is extremely passionate and committed, but lacks the skills. Whether that person is a singer, teacher, or business leader, credibility isn’t enough… we want ability. We all want to follow someone who has the ability to take us where we are going. If you feel like you aren’t being given the chances to lead which you think you deserve, examine both areas. Are you gifted in that area? Are you credible to the specific audience you want to lead?