Anyone Can Lead

When I first meet a student, the first thing we talk about is personal responsibility. I explain that the only way they will ever be able to keep themselves safe is to first learn how to control themselves. Presenting kids with a visualization of how the abstract concept of personal responsibility is implemented usually helps them better understand how the idea works in their day-to-day. So I ask them, “Are you safer if you watch where you run or are you safer if you close your eyes and run?” This scenario coupled with this concept is my way of passing the baton of leadership over to a new, young and capable mind.

Too often the characteristic of “leadership” is taught as being at the head of the class and the captain of the team. Images of power are what schools teach their students to envision alongside the concept of leadership. Unfortunately, leadership is rarely taught for what it is and is instead taught via the extremes of tyrannical and utopian acts. In neither case is someone leading silently by simply executing a task well or acting appropriately, which is more relatable and attainable.

In our dojo we have a tradition where the senior ranked student starts and ends our class. Sometimes I see a student far down the line looking longingly at the senior position. It is at this time that I offer some alternative leadership options that are outside the position they long for, which include:

1. A tidy uniform.
2. Knowing the names of techniques.
3. Showing techniques correctly.
4. Being a good partner by holding yourself and your partner accountable for an exercise.
5. Being a good example to a junior student.

The list could go on for pages, but the real lesson is that everyone has an opportunity to be a leader.

Question is: How many take that opportunity to lead?

There are more opportunities in life to lead than most of us think is possible. Looking, listening, and learning for those opportunities to lead will help you live a better, healthier, and safer life. Don’t forget to pass the baton on to a better leader, either, as you never know where they may take you.

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