From a young age, I never followed the crowd. I was the kid who went exploring at summer camp while the rest of the people went to an especially boring-sounding activity.
Sometimes, I would look back and realize others were following. In those instances, I would find myself leading a small pack of boys, and we invariably had a lot of fun together. At other times, I would find myself alone enjoying skipping rocks or happily exploring the nearby creek.
A Loner or a Leader?
Those who chose to follow me and enjoyed an adventure together would call me a leader. Others who saw me wandering in the woods by myself would call me a loner. There's a massive difference between those two positions when you're talking about business.
John Maxwell, who wrote our book of the month “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth,” said, “He that thinketh he leadeth, and hath no one following, is only taking a walk.”
I had no delusions that I was leading when going off on adventures by myself. I am a loner when it comes to the outdoors, and I'm ok with that.
Being a Loner in Business Doesn't Work
Many times over the years in business, though, I've caught myself thinking I was leading as I explored new territory, yet turned around and found no one following. As Maxwell put it, I was deluding myself and was not doing anything other than merely taking a walk.
I believe that being willing to take the initiative rather than following the crowd is one of the hallmarks of all great leaders, but be careful how far you go before looking back to see if anyone is following. A leader is only a leader as long as they are leading, and MUST bring others along with them on the journey to be successful. A business is not much of a business without customers and team members, so share your vision frequently so that they know where you're heading.
A walk in the woods by yourself might be enjoyable. In business or organizations, though, walks get lonely quickly when you find that you're the only one at a breakfast meeting or the only one on a conference call. If you've suddenly realized you're leading no one but yourself, I encourage you to reach out and connect with someone today.
Share and Connect Regularly
Reach out to touch base with others regularly. Share your vision. You may find that your walk turns into leading others on an exciting adventure, but that'll only happen when others know about it. The best idea in the world dies a lonely death if no one knows it exists. Share often, and invite others to walk alongside you.
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About the Author
Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.
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