Have you ever heard the expression “He’s a natural born leader?” This is one of those phrases that in reality is more ?ction than fact. Leadership qualities are developed “after birth” through the decisions we make and the decisions that are made for us in childhood. These decisions in? uence which people we choose to follow, which ultimately shapes our leadership abilities. Therefore, in order to become a great leader, you must ?rst learn how to become a good follower.
To become a good follower you must carefully select your role models and mentors. No one can choose these people for you. These people will be the leaders who will shape your character and ultimately teach you how to be a great leader yourself.
Role models and mentors are not the same. A role model can be anyone who influences another person to act or be- have in ways similar to themselves.
They can be someone you know or someone you have never met. The similar characteristic between role models is that they are looked up to by the people who follow them. This is why many children choose sports heroes as role models. They would love to be like Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky or John Elway. I wonder how many children do the “Sammy Sosa jump” after they hit a baseball, or stick their tongue out when attempting to slam dunk a basketball like Michael Jordan?
But sports heroes are not the only type of role model that can impact a person’s life. Peers, teachers, and parents have an opportunity to make the strongest impact on us. And because a role model’s in?uence can be either good or bad, who we choose to emulate will ultimately determine the person we become. Children are the most impressionable because they are looking to de?ne themselves. They are at the time in their lives when selecting a positive role model is crucial. However, in a recent survey that asked children if they had a role model, 43% said they did not.
A mentor is a type of role model. The relationship between a person and a mentor is much more special because the mentor will have an impact through a direct personal relationship. The mentor and the person not only interact together but the mentor often takes a personal interest in the success of their “student”. The mentor is an important part of the person’s life.
A mentor can “take you under their wing” or you may seek them out based on a particular area of expertise they possess. If you are fortunate enough to have one or more mentors in your life, these will be the key people who will shape your leadership qualities, so choose them wisely.
The best way to choose a role model/ mentor is to examine your goals and seek out the people who have accomplished similar objectives. Once you ?nd some- one that you would like to follow, ask yourself how this person accomplished their objective. If they were successful in an honest and reputable way, then they will most likely be an excellent role model or mentor in your life. For example, if your goal is to be a great weight-lifter, a good role model would be a person who was dedicated to being successful through hard work and without the use of steroids.
As martial arts instructors, we strive to become positive role models for all our students. We have the unique opportunity to work with many people with varying goals. While we don’t expect you to choose our life’s path and open a martial arts school, we do expect your martial arts training to be an important tool in helping you achieve success in whatever you do.
If you have been a good follower and have chosen your leaders properly, you will have learned to lead others. Just as it comes time for children to leave home and enter the world as individuals, there also comes a time for followers to become leaders. As children can always come home for support, great leaders understand that continuing to have role models and leaders as a reference will foster continued personal growth. At our school, it is our mission to develop great leaders. Our tool is martial arts.
By Joseph Galea