At Leadership Rising, we talked about a life of integrity, and I was reminded of a quote I heard from C.S. Lewis:
Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life you are slowly turning this central thing into either a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature.
In other words, if you cut corners in a small thing, next time you are faced with a choice, it will be a little easier to cut corners again. If you discipline yourself to choose the right choice on the little things, it will be easier to choose to do the right thing on the bigger decisions you face. Integrity is the word we use to describe the sum of a lot of good choices.
Part 2 in defining a reluctant leader is to describe what it is not. Another great quote from the blogosphere, this one from Jeffrey Dean:
In Forrest Gump, Forrest had hundreds of people following him as he ran across the country, but he had no idea why he was running, much less what to say to those who joined him. When the moment came for him to speak, he simply said he was tired, and thought he would go home. There is a simple wisdom in this, but it was not delivered in a way anyone was ready to accept.
Again, a person with the ability to lead has no duty to do so. While some may argue that choosing not to lead is a waste of ability, I would counter that a person who does not want to lead does not make a good leader. Here, then, is the most important distinction to make: a reluctant leader is not an unwilling leader. It is simply someone who does not actively seek to lead before attracting others who want to follow. At some point, such a person must decide whether to lead or not, and the choice itself defines whether the person is actually a leader or not.
I am one who would argue that stewardship of our gifts is critical, and anything less is waste. However, I’m with him on his last point. Leadership abilities are not enough. A leader is one who chooses to lead.
So reluctant leaders have huge potential, but they’re not leaders until they emerge. I firmly believe that in every reluctant leader, there is a suppressed desire to lead.